Natural Beauty in the Bernese Oberland

Bernese Oberland is a region surrounding Switzerland’s capital, Bern.   It is a large region, and in my personal opinion, contains some of Switzerland’s most beautiful landscapes.   Although, I’ll admit, its hard to find parts of Switzerland that aren’t breathtaking.

As we were driving, we pulled over to find this valley.

Approaching Interlacken on the way from Luzern

One of my new favorite Swiss photos.

Loving the beauty of Bernese Oberland

It was a great warm-up view for us as we continued on through Interlacken, and into the Lauterbrunnen Valley to park our car.   From there, we took a little train up to Wengen, where we planned to spend the night at 1400m.

Lauterbrunnen Valley and its waterfall

Wengen, like other car-free towns we stayed in…. Saas-Fee, Zermatt, and Murren, was peaceful without the roar of motors.   A ten minute walk had us at Hotel Edelweiss.   The little chalet was family run and we couldn’t have felt more welcome.  A very pleasant gentleman personally walked us to our rooms to make sure all was okay.

Hotel Edelweiss in Wengen – we’d highly recommend it

After checking in, Mom ran into a lady whose job it was to prepare fresh bouquets for the hotel.   She had gathered Edelweiss as well as some florals from her personal garden to prepare the tables for the evening dinner service and the next day’s breakfast.   It’s all about the personal touch, isn’t it?

View from our balcony at Hotel Edelweiss

While relaxing on our terrace, Gabe & I did some quick research into what to do in Wengen.   We found a few spots that were well recommended and then headed to meet Twin & Solid.

Checking out the view

Our second trip to Bernese Oberland. Last time was in the distant mountain, in Murren.

Twin and Solid on their first Bernese adventure

The first recommendation, Hotel Caprice, didn’t disappoint.  We enjoyed beers and wine with this view in the background:

Drinks on the terrace at Hotel Caprice

After a few rounds, we headed to Hotel Bernerhof for some traditional Bernese fare.  Gabe and I ordered raclette so that they could get a taste.   Twin ordered veal sausage & rosti, another famous mountain dish.  Solid went with spaghetti.   The waiter was super hard working guy, running the entire place single-handedly.   We really enjoyed our meal there.

We are convinced that the folks in Wengen are some of the nicest we’ve met.

Who couldn’t enjoy life with a view like this?

Dusk falls on Jungfrau

Related Posts:

The Swiss Watch Blog:   Gratitude Friday:  Travel  (our adventures in Murren with T)

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Rostigraben

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Famous Swiss Foods – Cheese

Luzern: Switzerland’s Loveliest City

We hadn’t been to Luzern yet, but have had it on our list the entire time we’ve lived in Switzerland.   I almost got to go for Carnival with my girlfriends but when my surgery got moved to an earlier date, it fell through.

However, I knew I’d get a chance to reschedule a visit when Twin was to visit.   Because my mom loves flowers, I knew she’d goo-goo- gaga over the lovely flower bridge in Luzern. I was right.

First glimpse of the wooden flower bridge

Checking out the bridge

Historical stories than pan the entire bridge

Exploring the waterfront of Luzern

After walking around awhile, we settled at Rathaus Brauerei

Rathaus Brauerei

Solid & Gabe had local beers and Twin & I had some local red wine.   We got seats right on the water so ended up staying for awhile and ordering traditional Swiss German dishes – bratwursts, pretzels, frites, and some filet de perche since we were on the water. After dinner, we took a stroll through old town.

Lovely waterfront

Clock tower

Old town – beautiful squares and buildings

Loved the detail on some of the buildings….quintessential Swiss

My map showed a cool view if we ascended so we kept going.

The old city ramparts

Panoramic view of Luzern from the ramparts

After walking the ramparts, we descended to the other old bridge.

The old bridge

The water flow in the river was so powerful.  The poor swans had to work hard not to be swept away!

We learned that Luzern has to control the water flow to keep nearby lakefront towns from flooding.  In the Spring, as alpine melt rushes the lake, they must really take heed of the flow.  As summer progresses, the control can be tweaked to keep lake levels up.

Checking out the river / dam system that Luzern uses to control Alpine water flow

The next day we set a meet-up time of 1pm, so everyone could have free time.    Twin & Solid visited The Lion Monument dedicated to the Swiss mercenaries protecting the French king.

Luzern Lion Monument – Image courtesy of Walkaboutphil.com

Gabe & I opted for a old-fashioned Lake Lucerne cruise to fill our morning.

Boat ride around Luzern’s lakes

Boats on Luzern’s beautiful lakes

Sailboats on the lake

We left for Interlacken very content from our awesome experience in this lovely Swiss city.

The Land of Chocolate and Cheese

Switzerland is known to be the land of chocolate and cheese.  So, when Twin and Solid were in town, we had to partake in both delicacies.

It is possible to do a Chocolate & Cheese train out of Montreux.   However, it runs around 99 CHF a person.  We figured that we’d be driving through the lovely canton of Fribourg (which is home to both stops on the tour) enroute to Luzern, so why not do it ourselves?

We set off from Geneva around 9am.  We made it to Broc, Switzerland in about an hour & a half.  Broc is the home of the Cailler Chocolate Factory.   You may recall we visited this yummy destination with Couch Surfer when it was raining.   However, with my mom being a severe chocoholic, we didn’t need to wait for rain for a visit, it was a #1 priority.

Arrival at Cailler, in the middle of the Alps

I had decided to skip the hour long tour this time, having done it before with Couch Surfer.  Gabe, however, wanted to make sure that Twin and Solid were okay so he volunteered jumped at the chance to do it a second time.

Tasting the cocoa bean

Smelling the hazelnuts

I consider it a good thing he went because he could supervise Twin.  I thought I might get a call from the factory forbidding us to bring guests anymore due to her love of chocolate.  I’m sure she can eat more than her 10 CHF worth that the price of admission costs. They do let you have how much you can consume in the tasting room.

Checking out the Branches being made.

Checking out the selection. I’d advised her to hold out to the end. It’s where the high-end yummy dark chocolates are given out.  They liked the coffee flavored dark ones the best.

Overall they enjoyed Cailler.   They gave it a thumbs up:

If its not gluttony enough to indulge in chocolate, Switzerland keeps its other fabulous agricultural delicacy close-by….Gruyere cheese.   The little hilltop town is just 10 minutes from the Cailler factory.

Doesn’t get much cuter than Gruyeres

The cows welcomed us……

Mooo!!!!!  We make yummy cheese!

How adorable is Gruyeres?

Aww….

Something must be in the air in Gruyeres!

We all decided that maybe we should skip the cheese tour.  After all, we had indulged enough.

Instead, we decided to explore the castle grounds and the ramparts of Gruyeres, known for its defensive position on the hilltop.

Me climbing the ramparts.

Luckily, we didn’t skip tasting Gruyere cheese altogether.    Look at the smile on Solid’s face when he ordered a Croque Madame in nearby Chateau D’Oex a few days later…

A happy man…

We also had a good fill of Swiss cheese in Wengen when we stayed an overnight there.   More to come on that!

Related Links:

The Swiss Watch Blog:   Cheese Wars

The Swiss Watch Blog:   It’s Raining – I guess we have to go to the chocolate factory

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Famous Swiss Foods – Cheese

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Famous Swiss Foods – Chocolate

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Guests:  What to Expect out of a European Hotel

Bellinzona, Switzerland

Bellinzona, located in the Ticino part of Switzerland, is an quaint medieval town.   It is best known for the three castles that dominate the landscape.  The castles were awarded the UNESCO world heritage designation, based on their key role in protection of an Alpine pass in medieval times.

In my recent Castles in the Sky post, I explained that castles were built at elevations for defense.

In Bellinzona, there are three:   Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro.

We were limited on time so just explored Castelgrande.   Luckily for me, there is an elevator that shoots you straight up through the castle to the inner courtyard.  This is a godsend since my feet aren’t in hiking condition yet.  Visiting the other two is a much more significant effort in walking / climbing.

The town of Bellinzona was quiet on the rainy Sunday we stopped in

View from below at Castelgrande

A first look on the upper courtyard of the castle

Yup, its pretty securely built on this rock.

We admired the view to the other castles.

We were hungry and it was starting to drizzle.  We decided to dine inside the castle where we had read that there was a great restaurant offering Ticino style meals.

Since it was Italian style, we decided to continue the trend of ordering two courses, a primi pasta course and a secondi meat course.   This was a mistake, at least for me.    The first courses came out huge.  Oops.   However, it was so delicious, I finished every bit of my taglietelle with Ticino ragu.  And Gabe finished his gorgonzola gnocchi.    Sorry that I didn’t get a picture before we ate it.

Eating inside of a UNESCO castle.  The sauce that once contained gnocchi.

The meat courses were equally as good.  Gabe almost finished his veal piccata.   I didn’t come close on my beef.   I vowed that I wasn’t going to order Italian style anymore.  I would have been just as content with only a pasta course.  The ride home we were stuffed.

However, all in all, we were impressed with the Italian Switzerland cooking.  It was just as good as Italy.

It was already 2pm, so we decided we better head home.  Especially since we weren’t 100% sure how to get there.

 

Bellagio, Italy

This weekend was a holiday weekend in Switzerland.  We wanted to take advantage so planned a last minute getaway to Lake Como.  I think I wanted to go there slightly more than Gabe.  First of all, I love Italy in general.  Furthermore, I had romanticized about visiting the beautiful Italian lake for quite awhile.  I was able to lure Gabe in with the bait of the fact that a few James Bond films were shot there.  Plus, we were able to get a last minute apartment in Bellagio.   I convinced him that the hotel name-sake was the next best thing to being to Vegas.

However, when it was all said and done, I think he’d agree that little Bellagio far exceeded his expectations.

Lake Como is located in the North of Italy, just at the base of the Italian Alps.   Switzerland is just over the horizon of the Italian Alps.  While the canton of Ticino is very close to Lake Como, this part of Switzerland isn’t that close to Geneva.   Thus, we drove through the Mont Blanc tunnel and down through Italy, passing Milan.  It was about 4 hours to Lake Como, and another 45 minutes to Bellagio.

Image courtesy of Casa Mantra Ponto

When we’d looked for hotels about a week out, the ones in Bellagio were sold out. We’d wanted to stay there as we had heard it had the most nightlife and restaurants of all the adorably inciting mid-lake villages.    The shortage on booking.com led me to search for apartments online and luckily we found availability at the cutest little apartment, run by Maria at Bellagio Centre Town.

We spent most of the weekend either eating, sitting in a cafe, or strolling down the beautiful Italian streets.   We tried to see how slow we could get our pulses.

Taking in the view of the opposite shoreline, Varenna

Bellagio at dusk

Evening falls on Bellagio

The food was amazing.  Par for the course in Italy.  We forget how bad it is in Geneva until we travel.   We gorged ourselves with the multiple courses like we’d never eat again.   We sipped crisp proseccos at sunset and drank lovely Lombardy and Piedmont wines as the night continued.

Cappacino on the waterfront

Some folks enjoying the homemade  gelato – we enjoyed it each afternoon…

So I stay convinced that heaven on earth is Italy.

Sunshine in Neuchâtel

I had been feeling a little glum lately – I think a combination of missing the U.S., friends, Gabe, and a little cabin fever from the rain and surgery recovery.    So, S invited me to join her, T and her two guests on an outing to Neuchâtel last Friday.

I’d heard it was a neat Swiss town so was excited for a chance to see it.   Traveling with S is like having a personal tour guide.  She has an amazing knack for history and even better, the retention and relation of this knowledge.  I love the history, just can’t remember it and relate it all.   So, as we walked the colorful streets, she pointed out a neat things to take note of (you can learn more about these on her blog).

 

As we walked, I just enjoyed the sunshine.   It hasn’t been too frequent lately so it was glorious to soak in the rays and even remove my jacket partway through the day.    Don’t you just love the puffy white clouds in the blue Swiss sky?

 

 

 

We concluded our walking tour of Neuchâtel with a picnic on the lake, all sharing things we brought along, before heading to 3 more interesting stops on the eastern side of Switzerland.

 

Thanks to S and Neuchâtel for the beautiful day.

Alpine views in Zweisimmen and Château D’Oex

As mentioned in the previous post about our trip on The Golden Pass, we stopped in two towns on the journey back.

The first of the towns was Zweisimmen.   I’ll be honest that I had no idea what to expect (not listed in my tour books) but I suggested to E-dawg that we hop off the train and spend an hour there until the next train would pass.

We found an adorable German speaking village, full of cows.   We wandered around its quiet streets enjoying the fresh air.

This is Zweisimmen!

We caught the train an hour later and hopped off again at Château D’Oex.  Readers might find this town familiar as we stopped there twice for the Hot Air Balloon Festival.  After the Friday night “Night Glow” show  failed to produce any balloon pictures, I begged Gabe to go back the following Sunday for more.  And that is when I fell in love with this little village known to be the Swiss capital of ballooning.

 

Welcome to Château D'Oex (pronounced Shat-oh Day)

It was really neat for me to see the difference in winter vs. spring.  The town is totally different.      Originally, I was going to sit at a café and rest my feet while E-dawg explored.   But I couldn’t help myself wanting to climb up to the top of the chapel with her for the views!

Streets of Château D'Oex

Climbing up the steps of the chapel, greeted by amazing spring flowers

After reaching the top, E-dawg relaxed near the chapel walls.

 

On the way back down, we decided it was an opportune time to open the mini bottle of Swiss wine we had brought to picnic on the train.   We popped our shoes off, sat in the grass, and enjoyed the magnificent panorama in front of us.

After experiencing it in multiple seasons, this little village quickly lept up to one of my top Swiss places to visit.

Back on the train. Goodbye Chateau D'Oex...until next time!

Villefranche, a quaint sea village

Post by Lauren

We had heard from numerous people that Villefranche was a great place to stay on the Cote d’Azur.   After spending one night, we’d wholeheartedly agree.

Villefranche was quaint and beautiful.  The colored buildings were gorgeous at both sunset and sunrise.  The small port had cozy restaurants lining the water and provided a nice way to relax and reflect on our trip.

We stayed at Hotel Provençal which provided stunning views. We have a dear friend that recommends The Welcome Hotel as well if you are considering a trip.

 

Adoring Villefranche

 

After checking in and enjoying our balconies for a bit, we drove down to the port.  We ended up checking out all the menus along the waterfront and selected Les Corsaires.  Mama Mia announced after we were seated that this night would be their treat in honor of Gabe’s birthday.  It was a perfect way to celebrate!!  Mama Mia had prawns, The Gladiator and Gabe had steaks (Gabe was still on the steak train from our experience in Arles) and I opted for a veal chop.

The place was family owned and dog friendly. In fact, this little guy kept checking on how my veal chop was.

My dinner table friend

 

Villefranche, we’ll be back some day!

Gratitude Friday: Stepping into a Van Gogh Painting

Post by Lauren

We added Arles to our list because we knew The Gladiator would like its Roman history.  Arles has a Roman arena in marvelous shape.

However, I also was jazzed about hitting this UNESCO world heritage city because my favorite artist spent a stint of time here and credited it to be the most inspiring place of his career.  Thus, I am making our visit this weeks’ gratitude post.

Upon arrival, we stopped at Hotel Dieu, the hospital where Van Gogh recuperated after he cut off his ear.  We had learned in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam that this incident was likely out of anger during a fight with fellow artist and object of his obsession, Gauguin.  Some say it was actually Gauguin who mistakenly cut off the ear in a sword fight and Van Gogh covered it up to protect Gauguin.  Only the dark streets of Arles can be sure.

Nonetheless, after the ear was no more, Van Gogh ended up at Hotel Dieu.  It was really neat for me to see this courtyard.  I instantly recognized it from a few paintings he did during his stay.

Espace Van Gogh, site of the Hotel Dieu, hospital where Van Gogh recovered

Later, we enjoyed an amazing dinner al fresco at Café Apostrophe in the Place du Forum.  I  say it was amazing because Gabe and I each both ordered a marvelous bone-in steak. We aren’t used to good quality beef in Switzerland.  It is typically small, expensive, and underwhelming.    We tend to get excited for eating out in other countries and Arles didn’t disappoint.

A highlight for me beyond the steak was sitting in sight of the café in the scene of the Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night. About the night cafe, Van Gogh said, “”I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad, or commit a crime.” (source: Wikipedia)

Recognize this scene? The Café - taken with my own camera - the source of my goosebumps!

When I was learning to paint in college, this was the second Van Gogh that I imitated, trying to recreate his brushstrokes in effort to learn the impressionistic style.  I have been lucky enough to travel to other cities that have been the scenes to famous paintings.  However, standing in sight of this little café in Arles sent chills up my spine.

The cafe one that I speak about is in the top left, but also included below are some additional paintings that Van Gogh did while in Arles:

Images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

 

In addition to the Van Gogh sights, Mama Mia, The Gladiator, Gabe and I visited Les Arènes, the ancient Roman amphitheater.   Arles thrived during Roman times.  So much so that they needed a stadium to hold 20,000.  In this stadium were executions, bullfights and other gory events of which the Romans were enamored.

 

Les Arènes

After the fall of Rome, Les Arènes remained but transitioned into a fortress and then later an entire town fit within it’s protection.

Les Arènes, circa 18th century. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Les Arènes is still used today for shows and bullfights.

Throughout the trip, we also enjoyed strolling down Arles beautiful streets and window shopping.    Mama Mia and I picked up some provençal goods…linens for me, and some souvenirs and gifts for her.   However, we all just enjoyed walking along taking in Arles. To me, the buildings were so gorgeous…

Streets of Arles

Arles is said to be the most creative portion of Van Gogh’s career.   Now, I see why Van Gogh liked it so much.  I am grateful to have experienced it myself.

Bon weekend, everyone!

Enjoying Hermance

Post by Lauren

Geneva has a lot of lovely villages that surround it.  During the women’s club hikes, I have been able to experience a few of these little towns.  Since we walk fast through them, I just note which ones I should re-visit.

One such settlement is Hermance (pronounced Err-mance, with a silent H).   Hermance is about a half hour bus ride or car ride north of Geneva.   It is a lovely little village with a beautiful church and bell tower.

While the family was here, we decided to take a day trip up to it so that part of the crew could walk over the border to France. We took the bus which dropped us in the middle of town.

Hermance is on the border of Switzerland and France

 

Dunkel kindly pushed me around as I still wasn’t up for much walking.  We took a stroll down the streets of Hermance, noting it was like stepping back in time.  We only saw a few pieces of evidence of technology in bikes that had been left in the street — otherwise, just a peaceful quintessential Swiss village.

During our few hours, we ventured on the stone beach.  While walking near the shore, we noticed scuba gear.   Apparently the town is great for diving. They even have restrooms with showers for divers.

After the walk on the beach,  Dunkel, SweetWine, and The French Cougar took a quick walk over the border to France, which Mama Mia, The Gladiator and I just relaxed on the Swiss side.  Their passports weren’t checked as there is no border patrol at this quiet passing, but confirmed they were in France by some gentleman walking home from Hermance.

After the border crossing adventure, the group recharged with ice cream from the local epicerie (the only grocery store in Hermance) followed by some pastries and coffee at the lone patisserie in town.

Enjoying Hermance. In the photo of The Gladiator and Dunkel by the "creek", they are on the Swiss side, but the trees are in France.

The town is quite nice for guests to experience a quaint Swiss village.  And a plus for those wanting to add another country to their list.