Swiss Bliss

Location: Switzerland

Introduction:

We planned to skip Switzerland on this trip. However, her natural beauty wowed us so much on our first visit that when we discovered a cheap flight to Geneva, we rationalized that we’d never been there before. So, we started out in the French-speaking south and finished up in the German-speaking north. Along the way, we discovered that not only is southern Switzerland just as beautiful as the north but it also has that evil-good French food that we love so much. Switzerland continues to be one of the most beautiful countries that we’ve ever visited. We just wish that it wasn’t so expensive.

Sights Visited:

We spent our first few days in Leysin, a resort town with several prominent boarding schools (Leysin American School costs $100k/yr) in the Bernese Alps in the southern part of Switzerland, where French is the primary language. It’s a popular winter sports destination that offers some fantastic hiking trails in the summer that we put to good use. One day we hiked to La Berneuse where the 11.5 km trail was well marked with an elevation change of about 2,500’. You can also take a cable car to the summit where there’s a revolving restaurant.
The next day we set out on what we expected to be a somewhat easier 9.5 km hike from Les Fers to Pierre du Moelle. Unfortunately, when we came to a fork in the road, we misinterpreted the signage and took the road less traveled, which turned out to be the wrong one.  Rather than retrace our steps, we opted to make our own path up the mountain. An hour later, we were finally back on track. The trail became much more demanding than what we’d expected. However, we were rewarded for our efforts with spectacular scenery in all directions.It’s not uncommon to find cows grazing in the fields high up in the Alps providing a serenade of sound from the clanging bells that hang around their necks. They also leave lots of cow pies. It was inevitable that sooner or later we’d step in one. Sure enough, we each did when we were looking at the beautiful scenery instead of the footpath. Yuck!
Luzern is a popular tourist destination for good reason. It’s filled with architectural gems and sits on a beautiful lake surrounded by stunning mountains. Even though it was a bit too pricey for us to stay there, we made a point to stop by and take it all in once again.
Words are inadequate when it comes to trying to describe the majestic beauty of Mount Rigi. This was an encore visit for us but the mountain is so big that most of the ground that we hiked this time was new to us. However, we made a point to seek out the Alpwirtschaft Obere First restaurant. This is an old, German-only spoken establishment high up on the mountain where we enjoyed another bottle of thirst-quenching Swiss Lager.

Accommodations:

The cost of lodging in the most popular tourist destinations such as Luzern was too pricey for us. So, we searched for more affordable locations. We started out at Les Airelles Bed and Breakfast in Leysin for 2 nights. This was the 100th place we’ve stayed at on our trip and this grand home was over 100 years old having been built in 1895 for a Russian Princess. There was no a/c as it wasn’t necessary given the cool nights up in the Alps. We had a sink in our room but had to share the toilets and showers in the common area, which was no big deal. Our room opened out onto a veranda offering spectacular views. The wifi was very good and they had a large kitchen for guest use that we took full advantage of. They also provided a nice breakfast spread and let us take a 3pm late checkout. This place was awesome!
We moved on to Affoltern am Albis where we used our IHG Rewards account to stay 3 nights at another Holiday Inn Express. It was conveniently situated next to the train station and a mall with a supermarket. We were also able to walk to numerous restaurants. The a/c was off in the building and the window couldn’t be opened leaving us warmer than we’d like. The wifi was good. They also provided a decent breakfast as part of the room rate.
The first 2 places that we stayed did not have fitness centers and we couldn’t believe that local gyms wanted $35 per person for a day pass. So, we used some Hotels.com credits that we’d earned to move up to the Belvoir Swiss Quality Hotel in Rueschlikon. It overlooks Lake Zurich providing us with impressive views from our room. There was no a/c but we could open the door to our terrace allowing cool, fresh air to flow in. The gym and wifi were decent and free parking was available.
We spent our last night near the Zurich airport as we had an early flight the next morning. The lodging prices are so high in Switzerland that the cost of the Depot 195 Hostel in Winterthur was still well above the average price we search for. There was no a/c but it cooled off at night and we could open the windows. They had a large community kitchen that we put to good use alongside numerous other guests. The wifi was good.
We’ve often reminisced about the great meal we had at the Balances Restaurant in Luzern. We had to settle for a table in the bar when the restaurant was fully booked on our first visit 5 years ago. Ever since then, we’ve wanted to return and eat in the restaurant. We finally got our wish and we were not disappointed. We enjoyed another sumptuous meal. This is one of our favorite restaurants in the world.
When faced with the dilemma of what to do on a rainy day, we thought it would be fun to do a crawl of wine bars in Zurich. We liked the Swiss wine that we tasted but only 1% of it gets exported. So, we focused on wines of the world that we’ve enjoyed before. Much to our surprise, we found that one of the wineries (Masi) from the Valpolicella region of Italy that we loved has opened their first wine bar in Zurich. They even have their own Riedel stemware for their Amarone.

Transportation System:

We boarded another EasyJet flight taking us from London to Geneva. We originally planned to move around Switzerland by train but the fares were so expensive that renting a car offered a better value. We picked up a Renault Clio from Avis. This was a nicer car than what we had reserved as it came with an automatic transmission. We drove all over Switzerland where the mountain tunnels seem to be endless and yet we never encountered a toll. Fuel was also more affordable than other European countries. Nice.

Shout Out:

We’ve found www.xe.com and their accompanying apps for the iPhone and iPad to be most helpful in converting foreign currencies to US Dollars.

For Your Amusement:

We were surprised to see that you can buy colored hard-boiled eggs off the shelf in the supermarket.

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Back home, we would say: “Please don’t litter”. In Switzerland the cows say: “I prefer grass to waste thank you”.

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Where the hell are we?

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Despite its name, this beer was pretty good.

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Highlights: Hiking in Leysin and Rigi.

Next Up: We’re off to see St. Petersburg, Russia.

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