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Our Great Switzerland Vacation

  • Submitted by: Rod Wilson, United States
  • Submission Date: 19th Oct 2005

After leaving Los Angeles twenty minutes late (3:35 Friday afternoon) we still arrived twenty minutes early in London then took off forty-five minutes late for Geneva. We could not find our baggage in Geneva so when we went to report it at the baggage claim office there it was. It had arrived before we did. What a surprise! We then headed for the train station to have our rail pass validated. Everything went smoothly. After checking into our hotel in Lausanne (which was our home base)at 4:00 pm Saturday and refreshing ourselves, we went for a walk down by the lake and had a nice candlelight dinner at La Percherie in the section of Lausanne known as Ouchy (pronounced "oochy"). Anne had a creamy basil tomatoe soup and a small salad. We shared a plate of various cheeses and a bottle of Swiss wine. We met a real nice local girl on the bus down to the lake named Patricia who showed us where to get off and where to walk to the lake. The walk and bus ride quickly showed us how hilly the city is. Remined us of San Francisco.

On Sunday we had a buffet breakfast at the hotel before heading down to Lake Geneva where there was sail boat race going on. We watched that for an hour or so before taking a boat ride (boat rides are free with Swiss Rail Passes) to the town of Montreux and tour of the medieval Castle de Chillon. This is amoung the best preserved medieval castle in Europe. And, going by boat, the first glimpse of the castle is really unforgettable. The mountains in front fall directly into the lake. If you were to drain the lake the castle would be higher than the Eiffel Tower (over 1,000 feet). For being about a 1,000 years old it was quite impressive. On our way back on the boat we stopped at Montreux for dinner (again tried some Swiss wine and again not that good) and a walk around the lakefront. While waiting for the boat bac to Lausanne we had a nice conversation with a couple from Minnesota.

On Monday we headed to the town og Gruyere by train to take a cheese making tour. they have been doing this there for over 1,000 years. Quint little town, no cars but a little that take you through the town up to a castle. the jovial driver made announcements in French, German and English. French is the main language in southern Switzerland, with German prominent in some of the country areas. We then walked through the wown, stopping at a little Swiss chalet for a lunch of Raclette. Interesting, but not all that great. Raclette is the process of cheese being heated from above and scraping it off as it melts and then spreading it over your bread on which you are to place little potatoes and cocktail type onions; then on top of the cheese you add little pickles. Even without the onions and pickles it was only so so and not good enough to recommend. On the train ride to Gruyere we met a nice young couple who lived in the States, he in Washington DC and she in San Pedro for a little while. Now living with his half sister in Geneva. After leaving Gruyere the four of us went back on the train and a trip to one of the oldest chocolate factories in Switzerland (Cailler's started in 1819). It's the only chocolate factory to still make chocolate without powdered milk. They make it the old fasioned way so they say. After the tour we were able to sample various chocolates, YUM! There we parted company and headed back to Lausanne but stopped on the way at the small town of Morges for a walk around and dinner. Tried more Swiss wine again not much better that the others. We had a salad, crab claws and pan-fried sole for dinner, nothing great. Discovering that Swiss food not that good so far. After getting back on the train to Lausanne we stopped at a grocery store in the train station to buy grapes, bananas, milk and some bottled iced tea for our daytime travels. This grocery store is open 24/7.

On Tuesday we took the train to Zermatt to see the Matterhorn. According to internet weather this could be the best day of the week for us. Very interesting train ride 1 1/2 hours to the village of Visp then another 1 1/2 hours to Zermatt via a cogwheel train. the scenery was spectacular all the way up the mountain. Zermatt is another of the car free towns but very touristy with a lot of electric carts to take you where you want to go (hotels, etc.) From Zermatt we took another cogwheel train about 40 minutes up to Gornergrat for the best view of the Matterhorn. At about 10,200 feet it is above the tree line and directly across from the Matterhorn and it does have a breathtaking view. This is definitely a must see for anyone visiting Switzerland. There about four other peaks in close proximity that are all above 14,000 feet high. All are capped with snow and glaciers. After some picture taking and a cold beer we headed back down to Zermatt and lunch of deer meat, a cheese fondue and finally some good German wine. Did some souvenir shopping before heading back to Lausanne.

On Wednesday we headed for Geneva. After getting off the train a young man heard us speaking English and adked us were we were from. He lived in Florida for a while but visited San Diego, Ca. and drove up the coast to Washington. He gave us some pointers as where to go in Geneva especially old Geneva across the lake. He walked with us several blocks and then pointed us in the right direction before heading off to school. He said he was studying criminology and now lives in Lausanne. After walking across the bridge we lloked is several stores buying more souvenirs and getting a very good Chinese lunch. I had duck in pancakes, Anne had the pineapple chicked both very good. We then took another boat ride for about an hour around the lake before heading back to Lausanne and a nice cheese plate and wine at an Italian place across from the train station. Then we decided to try some exotic desert called Danemark. It was made with French vanilla ice cream, with chocolate rum, chantilly and waffle crackers. Then back to the hotel for a nightcap.

Thursday we got up early to catch the train, about 3 hours (the trains run exactly on time all the time) to Interlaken and Grindenwald to see the trio of mountain peaks of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, but they were too fogged it to see the tops. We had a real apple strudel breakfast at a local hotel then settle for some shopping and nice fondue lunch before going back to Lausanne.

Friday (our last day), we went down to the lake b=for another boat ride, this time about 35 minutes over to Evian, France, for some last minute shopping andlunch. Came across a street market, both a farmers market and a street vendors market. Must have been at least six blocks long. I stopped at a meat vendor and was looking for something different to try such as a smoked sausage or something when the vendor asked me if I would like to try something. He offered me a slice of sausage, which was not very tasty so when I asked whe it was he told me it was made of horse meat. We then wandered down to the lake again for a nice walk along the lake shore. We stopped at an outdoor restuarant for lunch (probably the best meal so far) directly across from Lake Geneva. We both had filet mignon, mine with a red wine sauce and Anne's with a green peppercorn sauce. Both of us declared them delicious! Anne also loved her salad and said it was the best dressing she had all week. The au gratin potatoes were also quite tasty. We had cocktails of Kirsh for Anne and Black currant for me. Nice bottle of French wine. We then headed back to Switzerland and to get ready for our highlight dinner at Phillipe-Rochat's. That's another story about our twelve course meal and the four hours it took for this special meal.