A Perfect Swiss Day

Hooray!   Isabella and Ferdinand have been here!    They had a wedding to attend in England and we were lucky that they came to Geneva to visit us beforehand.

Ferdinand had to work at the beginning, organizing a golf event.  Once work was done, on the weekend, the four of us set off on a Swiss adventure.

Our first stop was the Lavaux wine region.  Isabella can’t drink currently (she is expecting), but we wanted to show them this UNESCO gem nonetheless.  So, we took the Chexbres exit off of the A1 and descended down the village towns into Rivaz.   They were breathtaken with the gorgeous terraced vineyards as we are every time we visit.

Next stop…..Gruyères.

Ramparts of Gruyères

Walking around the château

Lovely little village

We skipped the cheese tour (we knew we were having raclette for dinner), but all did order Gruyère-cheese based dishes for lunch.

After Gruyères, we drove to Broc, home of Cailler chocolate factory.

Smelling the cocoa beans.

Branche candy bar machine

Ta da! The tasting room!

I just go straight to the good stuff at the end now. I am trained.

Discussing the merits of milk & white chocolate

Weeeeee!

 

 

After playing on the playground a bit, we headed back to Geneva.  We had a big night in store.

The Schwingen & Switzerland crew was hosting a raclette party before the big Fête de Genève fireworks.   Ferdinand and Isabella had raclette their last time in Switzerland, in Zurich, but they were impressed by S’s monstrous spread.

The spread at the S’s

Raclette in action

 

For dessert, S had “Creme de Gruyère” and “Creme Brulée” Movenpick ice cream.  She surprised her dad and me with a candle in each carton for a birthday surprise.  It was the loveliest ‘cake’ I have ever had.  If you have an opportunity, I urge you to try Movenpick ice cream.  Full of Swiss whole cream, its the real deal.

We left their house and were immersed in the madness that is Fête de Genève.  We say it is the absolute busiest, craziest time of year in Geneva.

We luckily found a spot for 12 of us, near the rides, and watched the magnificent hour long fireworks:

The beginning of the fireworks

 

Love this type!

Jet d’eau, in harmony with the show

What a perfect Swiss day!

 

 

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: The land of chocolate and cheese

The Swiss Watch Blog: Thanks for a Joyeux Anniversaire, everyone

The Swiss Watch Blog:   The fête commences

 

 

 

Gratitude Friday: Lots of Profits

In physical therapy this week, my physio asked if I was going to the pool or beach that evening.  I replied I had lots to do.  Ironing.  Laundry.  Grocery shopping. Some marketing work.  To which he responded, “Il fait beau…profitez!”

The verb profiter in French sounds like it would mean profit.  My American perception immediately associated it with money / business.   However, the French tend to use it like “Enjoy” “Benefit” or “Thrive”.   Which is in fact, a better definition of a profit.

I love crossing things off my to-do list.  So doing things spontaneously can be challenging.  But, I was inspired and started thinking about where’d I’d go jump in the lake.

Unfortunately, the stormy skies rolled in which prevented a dip that night.   However, I took his advice to heart and decided I would profiter that week.    At the women’s club welcome coffee on Wednesday, I announced I’d like to see the sunflowers up close.  We had gotten a glimpse of them on the train to Montreux. Miles of them. And they looked marvelous to behold up-close.   A friend replied, “Ooo. I have wanted to do that as well.  I’ll drive”.   And that was that.   We were set to profiter of this glorious Geneva summer.

We set off at 7:30 from Geneva armed with my iPhone map but no real plan.  We had asked around to find the best place for sunflowers but our initial recommendation for Collonge Bellerive didn’t yield any yellow quite yet.   In driving out to Jussy though, we were overwhelmed with beautiful fields, dozens and dozens.  The best was across the street from Château du Crest, a winery we’ve been too a few times.   We tried to head back to Geneva twice but got deviated by even better fields & vantage points.

Here is evidence of our profiting :

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So, I ask you….how do you plan to profiter this week-end?    Bon weekend, everyone!

*If you decide to go take photos of any sunflowers or any crop, it is wise to wear long pants.  Just take it from me.  My legs didn’t profit too much after traipsing through the fields 🙂

More Summer Fun at Montreux Jazz Fest

We went to Montreux this weekend for the 46th annual Montreux Jazz Festival.  Even though I had taken Twin & Solid while they were here, I still wanted to go back.  This marks my fourth time and Gabe’s 3rd time going to the festival.

A round trip train ticket from Geneva costs 25 CHF each for us to go, but it is a fun summer activity.

A very pleasant ride from Geneva – an hour total and 25 CHF with your half fare card and 10% SBB discount for attending the JazzFest (no ticket required).

Everyone thinks we are weird that we don’t buy tickets for the shows.  My physio gave me a very quizzical look.   But, the free music is lovely.   You just simply show up to the park, find a spot and listen to your heart’s content.  The shows start about 3:30 on weekdays and 2:00 on the weekend and play back-to-back with 1/2 hour or hour breaks in between.

Taking in the scene, listening to a South African band.

Pants optional. Dogs are allowed. As demonstrated by this gentleman.  To his credit, the lake is right there.

 

If you feel like walking around, there is plenty to see and do.  There are a ton of vendors selling handcrafted goods.

Also the food is pretty yummy.  Gabe and I justify our expenditure on 25 CHF train tickets + festival food = cheaper than a low end restaurant in Geneva.

Image courtesy of Henry Birmingham from last year. The paella guys were back again this year.

 

Some people wander to the end of the festival to enjoy the swimming.  This is one of my favorite docks.

Lovely dock on Lake Geneva – Montreux.

This year, you could watch the gliders come in and try to land on the orange pad.

Coming in for landing….

 

Approaching…

Boom!

Freddie Mercury even enjoyed watching them a time or two.

Freddie Mercury tribute statue in Montreux.

The festival runs until this Sunday, July 15th – I’d encourage you to check it out!

The Little Train That Could….Drink Wine.

We love the Lavaux region.   The wine terraces are magical.   Twin had read my blog before their visit and had really wanted to stop in because of our rave reviews.

There are many options for seeing Lavaux.    If you have a car, you can drive through leisurely.   I do warn you that it is difficult.  S may have accidentally driven on a wine road not meant for cars.   Gabe found it challenging when we drove from Chexbres down to Rivaz with Couch Surfer.

You can also take a train.  I knew of two tasting spots accessible by train.  One is Vinorama nearby the Rivaz stop (bottom of the hill).  It has a lovely tasting room featuring hundreds of Lavaux wines and also a really well-done video which gives you more information about the UNESCO World Heritage Site.   The other is called Le Deck.  We haven’t been there but A & A raved about the magnificent terrace.   You can reach it by car, or by train via Vevey at the Chexbres-Village stop (top of the hill).

You can also hike the region.  The women’s club hosts a magnificent hike every fall during harvest.   I did it and enjoyed it, but it was 5 hours from St. Saphorin to Lutry, which is a little challenging for me.  You can design your own hikes by researching distance and picking a starting and stopping train station.

Lastly, I had recently heard about the Lavaux Express touristic train.   Before E-dawg came, I had listed it as an option since my feet were still recovering and I can’t drive our car, Frau Hilda.   However, we ran out of time.   I had honestly forgotten about it until I read Swiss Wife’s blog and saw her pictures.

So, Twin, Solid and I decided to try it out.   The little train schedule can be found online.   It only goes at certain times and actually on differing days it switches between Lutry and Cully.   Since we did it on a Wednesday, we left from Lutry, which was adorable in itself.

Port at little town of Lutry

Driving through Lutry’s cute streets on the Lavaux Express

Starting our ascent

The terraces are what Lavaux is known for

Rolling vineyards into Lake Geneva

The Swiss Wife had warned us that the daytime trains didn’t serve wine.  There is a 6:30pm weekend one that includes a taste, but we were going during the week.  So, we were prepared so that we wouldn’t be disappointed.

However, surprise, surprise….halfway through, the driver pulled off and their was a little hut with a lady offering tastes for 3 CHF.  So, we decided to partake.

Twin tasting Lavaux Pinot Noir

Solid exploring the vineyards with his glass of wine

The train was 13 CHF for adults.  We considered it a great value in order to get to see the vineyards without a car (and if you aren’t up for hiking super steep terrain).

Related Links:

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Lavaux Wine Tasting

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Gratitude Friday: My French teacher.

Swiss Wife Style:  All Aboard The Lavaux Express

Schwingen In Switzerland:  Stopping at Lavaux

Schwingen In Switzerland:  St. Saphorin

Schwingen In Switzerland:  Lavaux

Clouds Don’t Ruin The Golden Pass

When E-dawg was here, it rained a lot.   I tried to brainstorm ideas for activities in the clouds and rain and one we considered was a scenic train.    However, I wasn’t sure how this would be.    On one hand, you don’t have to get wet at all in order to see the magnificent Swiss countryside.    On the other hand, would the rain ruin the view & visibility?

I Googled it, but didn’t get much information.  Luckily, when we took the Golden Pass, the sun came out for E-dawg and I.   Unfortunately, I never found out the answer.

Twin & Solid knew they wanted to take a scenic train, so I recommended we take The Golden Pass back from Lauterbrunnen, since Gabe had to return earlier to Geneva to get back to work.   That way, we could take our time going back and stop in towns that looked intriguing.   However, the forecast was dreary.   Rain was predicted in every town we were to pass through.   The scenic trains aren’t cheap, so  I posed it as an option to them that we could all ride back with Gabe if they preferred.  The downside would be a 5am departure to go back in the car with him vs. a relaxing and leisurely wake-up.

They decided to roll the dice on the weather.   And, remarkably, we had a great day.   So, for those traveling on Golden Pass, worried about the weather, I’d recommend you just go for it.

Here is a recap of our journey, starting from Lauterbrunnen–>Interlacken Ost–>Spiez–>Zweissimen–>Montreux–>Geneva:

Lauterbrunnen valley. Not promising.

Thunersee….still ominous

Solid admiring the view after Zweisimen

Twin checking out the view before our stop in Château D’Oex

Clouds over Lake Geneva, but still pretty

Wow.  The cloud cover showcases varying blues in Lake Geneva.   Maybe the clouds were a good thing after all?

The overcast Golden Pass train ended up being one of our guest’s favorite days.

 

Related Links:

The Swiss Watch Blog:   Alpine Views in Zweissimen & Chateau D’Oex

The Swiss Watch Blog:   The Golden Pass

The Swiss Watch Blog:  A Springtime ride on the Glacier Express

The Swiss Watch Blog:   All Aboard the Glacier Express

Schwingen In Switzerland:  A Gorge-ous Panoramic Train Ride

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

Lake Geneva Nautical Adventures

On Twin & Solid’s second day in town, we took a boat trip around Lake Geneva.   There are multiple options for boat trips.   Since Twin is a flower lover, we selected the medieval village of Yvoire.

Image courtesy of CGN.ch

Geneva boats are operated by the CGN.   On their website, you can see the possibilities.   Our particular boat left Mt. Blanc at 10:15, stopping in Versoix, Coppet, and Nyon before crossing the lake to the French side and anchoring in Yvoire at noon.  Full fare ride to Yvoire costs about 40 CHF, but you can use your half-fare card to get a reduction.

Lake Geneva CGN boat – a few are classical steamboats like this one

Pulling away from Geneva

Approaching Nyon, Switzerland

Docking in Yvoire, France

Enjoying the flowers

Pretty window box

We had authentic French lake cuisine: filets de perche

We caught the 4:20pm boat back to Geneva.  It is the only option in the Springtime, and our visit was the last day of the Spring schedule. During the summer, there are more options for coming and going as the tourist traffic picks up.

On the way home, we had stunning views of Mt. Blanc.   It is only visible a small percentage of time, so we were lucky to get the view we did:

Mt. Blanc looks surreal in the summer….it never loses its snow

It was a lovely day with the CGN!

 

Related posts:

The Swiss Watch Blog:  Monday Funday in Lausanne and Evian

The Swiss Watch Blog:    Route Blanche and the Mt Blanc Tunnel

The Swiss Watch Blog:   Yvoire, France

Discovering Geneva: The Salève

Just outside of Geneva, is a cliff called The Salève.   It is visible from the town and towers over the city.    It’s so close you’d think it was in Switzerland.   But, it is actually in France.

3D Map courtesy of Alps Dream

 

Many women I know have hiked the Salève.   It is a strenuous 5 hour hike and 100% of it is steps and steep climbs.  I think a lot of the time, this hike ends up on people’s “Geneva Bucket List” of things to do before they move.  It’s never been an option for me because of my feet, although ever so tempting!

 

The Salève is the big cliff overlooking Geneva

 

Good thing that there are alternative ways up.    You can drive through France.   We heard from A & A & D that this is only for people who don’t get car sick.  They may have learned this the hard way.

You can also take the little cable car up.   Since Twin & Solid were visiting, we decided to go to The Salève on the day that they landed from the US for their first ever cable car ride.  It was sunny and clear that day, which is an absolute for planning a trip to Mont Salève.

From Geneva, you can take the TPG (Bus #8 direction Veyrier Douane)  to the border, and walk across.    It is about a 10-15 minute walk and the route is decently marked.  You can also see the cable car wires looming in the air, so you have a visual reminder of which direction to walk.

At 1000m, it is a good introductory cable car compared to say, Mt. Blanc.

Enjoying the view

Panorama of Geneva from the top of Mont Salève

They have two restaurants at the top – a small chalet selling inexpensive drinks and sandwiches, as well as a fancier place.   In fact, the nicer restaurant wouldn’t let us sit on the edge if we weren’t ordering food.  So, we just sat a row inward so we could order a drinks.

Many friends have told me its nice to bring a picnic and enjoy it as you look upon Geneva.

Beyond hiking, Mont Salève is also known for more adventurous sports.  We saw a mountain biker coming up in our cable car.  We also watched this guy take off into the horizon.

Going, going, going….

….gone!

You can do the entire trip in 2-3 hours from center city Geneva.