In the last boxing day sales, I was fortunate enough to grab a pair of bargain seats from Liverpool to Geneva; thank you easyJet! As we have family friends living in Switzerland, Conor and I decided that this beautiful country would be the perfect escape for an otherwise gloomy-looking February half term.
We caught the 7am flight on Tuesday morning and arrived in Geneva airport shortly after 9. Here we picked up a nippy little Skoda Fabia which would be our transport for the next 5 days. If you’re planning to visit Switzerland and are able to hire a car, I would really recommend doing so. The public transport is very expensive, whereas petrol prices are similar to the UK and hire charges similar to other European countries. Besides the flexibility of having a car is a definite advantage in a country with such beautiful yet remote mountainous regions.
We were going to be staying in a small town called Aigle, located at the foot of the Swiss mountains. We decided we would try to visit a few towns in our sleepy state on the way to to our home the next few days and we would see others on ‘rest days’, when we weren’t attempting to climb mountains (more about that in the next post)!
As we were only in Switzerland for a few days, we weren’t able to spend too much time in any one place and so we may have missed some great things to do in these towns. However we did some research, listened to the recommendations of my grandad and the lovely Veronica, and we think we found some of the best things to do in these places and I’m going to share those with you here:
- Climb the 302 steps to the top of the Tour de Sauvabelin in Lausanne. This wooden tower is located in the Sauvabelin forest and the viewing deck stands 35 metres above the ground. From here you can see a beautiful panoramic view of Lausanne, Lac Léman (or Lake Geneva to my fellow non-french speakers) and the surrounding mountains of Switzerland and France.
- Remix a classic Queen track at Queen: The Studio Experience in Montreux. The exhibition is situated inside the infamous Montreux Casino, where Mountain Studios (the place where Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Yes, AC/DC, Queen (naturally) and many more recorded albums during the 70’s and 80’s) was originally located. Interestingly, the Deep Purple track, Smoke on the Water was written about a fire that happened here in 1971 during the Montreux Jazz Festival. The Studio experience has lots of interesting memorabilia, including stage outfits and guitars belonging to Freddie Mercury and Brian May, an insightful documentary to watch and the opportunity to remix a queen track before leaving.
- Eat ALL the cheese and cream in Gruyères. (Disclamer: if, like me, you are slightly intolerant to dairy, you will be in pain post visit… personally I think it’s totally worth it). As you can imagine, the beautiful Gruyère cheese is created here. You can visit the factory to see how it’s made or just enjoy the variety of cheeses from the gift shop. Less well known is Gruyère cream; the thickest, most indulgent cream ever created. Spoil yourself and order an ice cream sundae with meringues and Gruyère cream… now is not the time for watching the waist line!
- Wander down the beautiful cobbled streets of the capital, Bern. I still find it hard to believe that Bern is a capital city, so much so that I have just googled this fact for the 3rd time to check. This has less of a bustling, capital city vibe and more of an unspoilt, relaxed aurora. The bridge across the river has some great photo opportunities.
- Take an after-dark stroll around the Aigle to see the medieval castle, illuminated against the backdrop of the mountains. Alternatively, during the day time take a picturesque train journey from Aigle up into the mountains.
- Climb up to Château de la Bâtiaz in Martigny. Another beautiful castle with panoramic views of a town nestled between domineering mountains. Walk back along the river and maybe stop for a coffee.
- Cross the border into France on a Tuesday or a Friday and let your senses be tempted by the tantalizing smells of the food market in Évian-les-Bains. Walk back through the cobbled streets and enjoy a coffee and a delicious french cake or pastry. Don’t leave without visiting the source of my favourite bottle water, Evian!
- Relax in a fairytale thermal pool at Lavey-les-Bains after a day hiking in the mountains. Gaze up at the stars, recall highlights of your day and enjoy the warm water as you laze on one of the ‘swan neck’ water beds or sit in one of the Jacuzzi pools.
And then, if you are able, spend any remaining time up in the beautiful Swiss mountains. Recommendations of how and where will be in the next post…