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Itinerary SOS: Belgium, France, Switzerland-where to stay in Switzerland?

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Hello again,

Thanks to so many great replies to my previous posts, and after reading some wonderful trip reports, I've revised our itinerary for this summer with DH and our two sons, ages 17 and 15. They are fairly experienced travelers after spending a month in Italy last summer. I still need a lot of help with some specifics, so any advice would be most welcome.

The good news is that I'm still dealing with a blank slate, as nothing is booked. But I know I have to do that soon!

Here's what I have so far:
Fly into Brussels, stay 1 night in Brussels. Visit the Grand Place and savor chocolate and wine (maybe DH will have beer)

Train to Bruges, stay 2 nights in Bruges

Train to Paris, stay 5 nights in Paris

Train to Avignon, pick up car at station, drive to St Remy. Stay in St Remy 6 nights, using it as a base to explore the beautiful towns in Provence.

Somehow get to Switzerland and stay for 8 nights!

This is the part I don't have much on. We'd fly home from Geneva, but we'd like to do some traveling around Switzerland. Some places that look interesting are Lucerne, Lugano with the Palm Express to St Moritz, Chateau Chillon, Gruyere, Golden Pass train to Gstaad...

So, if anyone could help me with some intelligent way to do this I'd be so grateful. We could also drop a day off Paris to add more time to Switzerland...and even cut Provence down a day as well.

Switzerland has always been a dream destination, but I'm a little fearful of heights. When we visited Ezes a couple of years ago, I could not believe how steep it was! I enjoyed it, but was a little freaked out getting there! Please keep in mind that I'm not the type to do the daredevil luge type of activity--thanks!
:-)

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    Hi cybertraveler,

    I think you've got too much planned for Switzerland for only 8 nights (I think your previous itinerary is too busy, as well). Remember that staying two nights in a place only gives you one full day, and that's not enough time to explore and discover a place for yourself. That's the kind of "if this is Tuesday it must be Belgium" pace.

    With 8 nights in Switzerland, I would have two bases, three maximum. St. Moritz is quite far from your other destinations, lying at the southeastern part of the country -- it will take about 8h by train to get there.

    It's quite a chore to get from Provence to Switzerland; it would be at least an 8h train ride. So, you may want to think about flying from Marseille to Geneva or Zürich.

    If you flew into Zürich, you could make Luzern your first base, then take the Golden Pass to Montreux via Gstaad. You could send your luggage ahead and also stop in Gruyeres while enroute. So Luzern and Montreux would be your two stops. Montreux is about 90 minutes from the Geneva airport, so you wouldn't have to have another stop in Geneva.

    If you wanted to have a third base, you could stop in either the Jungfrau area (Wengen or Mürren) or in Gstaad, both of which are between Luzern and Montreux.

    For more information, see

    www.jungfrau.ch
    www.luzern.com
    www.montreux-vevey.com
    www.gstaad.ch

    Have fun as you plan!

    s

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    Avignon - Geneva is 2 3/4 hrs by train.

    May be you have a look at
    http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/home.html
    and the endless links and links of links you will find there
    Will you travel by car? Otherwise check
    http://www.swisstravelsystem.ch/en/
    http://fahrplan.sbb.ch/bin/query.exe/en

    Find below copies of some older posts and adapt them to your wishes or come again with more specific questions:

    SWITZERLAND IN 13 DAYS

    There are hundreds of possible itineraries. In July, everything is open, all cableways are running. I suggest the following:

    Friday July 1st:
    I suppose you will arrive at Zurich airport in the early afternoon. Get then a Swiss Pass or a Swiss Fexipass at the airport railway station and go directly to Bern (trains every 30 minutes, 75 min trip). Book a hotel in the medieval city center of Bern (or at least a hotel close to the railway station), like Hotels 4 stars: Baeren, Bristol, Belle Epoque, Bern, Savoy
    3stars: Continental, Goldener Schluessel, Kreuz, Metropole
    2stars: National, Nydeck
    Hostels: Glocke, Landhaus, Ulrich & Stoessel & Wyss, Youth Hostel
    http://www.berninfo.com/en/page.cfm/Unterkuenfte
    Enjoy the medieval center of Bern

    Saturday July 2nd - Tuesday 5th
    daytrips from Bern (lakes and mountains if the weather is fine, towns and museums if the weather is bad), like:

    Bern - Biel/Bienne - boat - Murten (entirely walled city, free walks on the city walls) - train - Avenches (Roman amphitheatre, Roman museum, open until 5 pm) - Fribourg (other medieval town) - Bern
    Bern - Jungfraujoch - Kleine Scheidegg - hike - Maennlichen - cableway - Grindelwald - train - Interlaken Ost - bus (dp 19.08) - Beatenbucht ar 19.38, dp 1957 by historic steamboat (except Sunday) - Thun ar 21.21, back to Bern by train (every 30 minutes.

    Bern - Brienz - Ballenberg (Swiss open air eco village museum) - boat Interlaken - train - Bern http://ballenberg.ch/en/Welcome

    City trip Lucerne

    Visit of Bern (Cathedral, House of Parliament, Zytglogge tower (inside), Historic Museum, Arts Museum, Paul Klee Museum, Swiss Alpine Museum, etc.)

    Bern - Bulle - Broc (chocolate factory) - Gruyeres (cheese diary - castle - medieval city) - Montbovon - Montreux - Chillon castle -boat (dp 17.03) - Lausanne - train - Bern

    City trip Neuchatel (castle, cathedral, celtic lake dweling museum and other museums) - La Chaux-de Fonds - Le Locle (watch museums, underground mills)

    city trip Geneva and Lausanne with stamboat ride Geneva - Lausanne (3 1/2 hrs)

    etc. etc.

    Wednesday July 6th
    train to Zermatt (2 hrs). train or cable way rides to Gornergrat or Kleinmatterhorn, some hikes

    Thursday July 7th
    Glacier-Express ride Zermatt - St. Moritz
    Friday July 8th
    Mountain railway rides and hikes around St. Moritz

    Saturday July 9th
    Bernina-Express to Tirano and bus to Lugano. Enjoy Lugano

    Sunday July 10th
    Lugano dp 9.25 by boat to Ponte Tresa ar 11.06, dp by bus 11.40 - Luino ar 12.10, dp by boat 12.50 - Locarno ar 14.30; enjoy Locarno, Ascona and the Brissago Islands

    Monday July 11th
    Visit Bellinzona and the 3 medieval castles in the morning. Leave Locarno at 14.12 by panoramic train through the Centovalli to Domodossola and continue by bus over the Simplon Pass to Brig ar 17.41. Put your luggage in the hotel and go by train (dp 18.23 and cableway to Riederalp West, do a 1 hr hike to Rieerfurka and enjoy the views over Aletsch Glacier, the longest galcier of Western Europe. Go down to Riederalp Mitte, dp by cableway 21.05, 22.05 or 23.05 back to Brig

    Tuesday July 12th
    Morning train from Brig to Winterthur, deposit your luggage in the hotel, go on by train to Stein am Rhein, visit this scenic small town, go on by Rhine river boat to Schaffhausen, visit the town and the castle, proceed then (by citybus or train) to nearby Rheinfall, the biggest waterfall of Europe and go back from there to Winterthur by train.

    Wednesday 13th
    Visit Zurich in the morning and fly home
    Zurich
    Zurich is really neither the most scenic nor the most interesting town of Switzerland. Bahnhofstrasse is excellent, if you want to buy luxury Swiss watches and jewels (from 1000 USD upwards), therefore it's popular with Government members of poor developing countries. If you don't belong to this category of human beings, I don't think that Bahnhofstrasse will bring you much. Zurich has some outstanding museums, however. The Swiss National Museum (3 minutes from the main railway station) gives you an excellent overview over Swiss Hystory and culture in the last 800 years. The Rietberg Museum of non European Art will present an exhibition of 800 years of Indian painting, about 200 masterpieces by more than 40 artists – and all this at a glance. Never before has it been possible in the West to acquaint oneself with the entire history of Indian painting at a single exhibition.
    Otherwise there is not much to see in Zurich, in any case much less than in other Swiss towns.
    July 6th to 13th
    As a_p told you, it is not completely impossible, but certainly not advisable, to vistit Southern and Eastern Switzerland in day trips from Bern. You would spend more time in trains (and not all train routes are scenic) than at the places you would visit.
    Therefore I recommend:
    July 6th: sleep at Zermatt, Tesch, Randa, St. Niklaus, Stalden, Visp or Brig.
    July 7th and 8th: sleep at St. Moritz, Champfer, Silvaplauna, Segl, Celerina, Samedan, Chamues-ch, Bever, La Punt, Muottas Muragl or Pontresina
    July 9th and 10th: sleep at Lugano
    July 11th: sleep at Brig
    July 12th: sleep at Winterthur

    Luggage problems:
    Hand luggage locker at Zermatt in the case you sleep in another village
    Lugano: sleep 2 night at the hotel Montarina, very close to the railway station. Day trip Lugano - boat - pte Tresa - bus - Luino - boat - Locarno - train - Lugano without luggage
    luggage lockers at Bellinzona railway station
    In Swiss trains and buses, you can store as much luggage as you can bear with 2 hands (trains: under or over the seats, bus: special compartment), Hand luggage transport is free.July 11th may be overcharged. May be you do either the Sinplonpass bus ride or the Riederfurka excursion, but not both:
    Locarno dp 41.12 - Domodossola 15.55/16.10 - TRAIN -Brig ar 16.39, dp 17.23 - Riederalp ar 17.50

    Swiss border crossings at Piattamala (Bernina Express), Gandria (Tirano - Lugano bus), Fornaseette (Ponte Tresa - Luino bus), Ribellasca (Centovalli train), Iselle (Simplon bus or train): there isn't any control, trains and buses don't even stop at the border. Boths, Switzerland and Italy are in the Schengen zone.

    Accommodation: accommodation close to Bern railway station will probably not be cheaper than the cheapest hotels in the Zermatt, St. Moritz, Lugano, Brig and Winterthur area. you may have a look at:
    http://www.bnb.ch/
    http://www.swissbackpackers.ch/
    http://www.youthhostel.ch/home.html?&L=1

    http://www.booking.com offers (prices for double rooms/2 pax):
    Zermatt
    Matterhorn Hostel: CHF 92
    Petit Hotel CHF 110
    Tannenhof CHF 110
    Zuoz
    Convict 180 CHF

    Titlis: small glacier in a rather rocky mountain chain. Not even 3000m above sea level and not amidst other high mountains and glaciers like Zermatt-Gornergrat. Titlis is handy for people looking for a glacier and viewpoint close to Zurich airport. People who stay several days in Switzerland can go to better places, however.
    Jungfraujoch: the almost 100 year old cog railway line is really impressioning and the panorama from Jungfraujoch is fine (if there are neither clouds nor fog). Trains and the restaurant will be rather crowded in July (very popular with Japanese and Chinese as well as many other oversea's tourists and VERY EXPENSIVE EVEN WITH THE SWISS PASS (120 CHF/pax).
    The mountain and glacier panorama from Gornergrat is as good as from Jungfraujoch, but with a Swiss Pass you pay only 39 CHF/pax for the railway ticket.

    Bernina-Express:
    The fastest access from Bern is the boring line via Zurich. As you will go to Zermatt anyway, the access from there by Glacier Express is the much better solution.

    More accommodation links (be careful, some prices are quoted PER PERSON, and not per room:

    Lugano
    http://www.montarina.com/prenotazioni.php?lang=ing&pag=prenotazioni

    Naters, close to Brig railway station:
    http://www.beiderlinde.ch/page2.php
    http://www.guestroom.ch/594.html

    Brig:
    http://www.hotel-europe-brig.ch/preise.html
    http://www.brig-wallis.com/familienzimmer.html

    St. Niklaus, Zermatt Valley:
    http://www.bnb.ch/index.php?p=page&lng=e&part=1&id=91
    http://www.bnb.ch/index.php?p=page&id=577

    Zermatt:
    http://www.bnb.ch/index.php?p=page&id=683
    http://www.bnb.ch/index.php?p=page&id=250
    http://www.youthhostel.ch/de/hostels/zermatt

    St. Moritz:
    http://www.swissbackpackers.ch/en-hostels-20-st_moritz-randolins_backpackers.html
    http://www.bnb.ch/index.php?p=page&id=1113
    http://www.youthhostel.ch/de/hostels/st-moritz

    Winterhtur:
    http://www.winterthur-tourismus.ch/en/page.cfm/Unterkunft/Weitere_Unterkuenfte/Bed_Breakfast
    http://www.winterthur-tourismus.ch/en/hotels/etap_winterthur_city.html
    http://www.winterthur-tourismus.ch/en/hotels/banana_city.html
    http://www.winterthur-tourismus.ch/en/hotels/albani.html
    check these hotels with www.booking too, sometims cheaper


    SWITZERLAND BY CAR

    If you want to visit Switzerland by car, don’t choose just the places that can NOT be reached by car (like Muerren, Schynige Platte, Schilthorn, First, Kleine Scheidegg, Maennlichen, Rigi, etc). Otherwise you will have to pay for both: car rental, fuel (about 8 USD per US gallon/3,85 litres) AND mountain railways.

    There are tons of beautiful places in the Swiss Alps which can be reached by car. Some suggestions:

    Drive from Martigny to Col de la Gueulaz on Lake Emosson (2000m/6600ft). You are then just in front of the Northern side of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain chain of Western Europe. The glaciers of Trient, Tour, Argentiere as well as the peaks of Aiguille d'Argentiere (3900m/13000fr), Aiguille Verte (4120m/13500ft), Grandes Jorasse (4210m/13800ft), Mont Blanc (4810m/15800ft) ar jus a few miles away.

    Drive from Martigny to Grand St Bernard Pass (2470m/8100ft) and hike in 1/2 hr to La Chenalette (2800m/9200ft). From there, you have a stupenous view to the Southern side of Mont Blanc (A Neuve Glacier, dolent Glacier, Pre de Bar Glacier, Triolet Glacier as well as a lot of 3800 to 4800m / 13000 to 15800ft high peaks). In the South, but farther away, you see the glaciers and peaks of the Gran Paradiso chain.
    A easy, but very scenic 6hrs circular hike goes from Col du Gd St-Bernard via Col des Chevaux - Lake Petit Le - Col de Bastillon to the 3 blue mountain lakes of Fenetre and then over teh Col de Fenetre de Ferret back to Col du Gd St-Bernard.

    Drive from Sion to Col du Sanetsch (2250m/7400ft) and hike in about 2 hrs to Refuge/Restaurant La Quille du Diable on Tsanfleuron Glacier (2900m/9500ft). You are there on the top of a perpendicular cliff and can look down to Lake Derborence, just 1500m/5000ft below your feet. Stupendous view to Mont Blanc chain, Grand Combin, Mont Collon and tons of other peaks.

    Drive from Sierre to Grimentz and then up to the end of the road on Lake Moiry (2250m/7400ft) and hike then in aobut 1 hr to Moiry hut (Swiss Alpine club) and Moiry Glacier.

    Drive from Brig to Ried-Moerel, go by gondola to Riederalp (5 CHF/one way), hike in 1/2 hr to Riederfurka (2070m/6800ft), visit the visitor's centre/museum of the Jungfrau-Aletsch Nature reserve, walk through the Aletsch Forest and have a look at the Aletsch Glacier (longest glacier of Europe) just below and in front of you.

    Drive to Breuil-Cervinia (Italian neighbourhood, 2000m/6500ft) and go by cableway to Plateau Rosa (28 EUR/35 USD roundtrip). Plateau Rosa (3500m/11500ft) is close to Matterhorn Paradise/Kleinmatterhorn (1 mile away, same panorama). The roundtrip ticket from Taesch Parking to Materrhorn Paradise costs 107 CHF/112 USD

    Drive to Grimsel Pass (2200m/7200ft) and hike in about 1 1/2 hr to Sidelhorn (2800m/9200ft). Panoranc views to Unteraar Glacier, Oberaar Glacier, 6 mountain lakes around Grimsel Pass, Finsteraarhorn (4300m/14100ft) and dozens of other peaks. You may also hike from Grimsel Pass to Lake Oberaar (1 hr) and along this lake to Oberaar Glacier (another hr).
    Drive then from Grimsel Pass to Furka Belvedere and visit the Ice cave in the Rhone Glacier.
    Another road in the same area goes to Nufenenpass/Griessee. The hike from the end of the road to Lake Griessee - Gries Pass - Gries Glacier takes about 1 1/2 hrs.

    Drive from Davos or St. Moritz to Stelvio Pass (2800m/9200ft). Hike to the glaciers (1 hr or so) or enjoy them from Piz da las Trais Linguas (3 languages peak;

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    Hello and thank you both so much for the valuable information, which I'll be scouring this afternoon.

    swanda,
    I do worry about trying to fit too much in. The reason I chose to go to Belgium is for the less expensive airfare, and I've always wanted to see Bruges. But I've read that there really isn't much to do there. Paris, since it's right there and so special seems like a must-do. The Provence/Switzerland is perhaps pushing it a bit. Provence was included for the weather and beautiful towns (not to mention the markets, baguettes and cheese!). Switzerland crept in with the less expensive airfare, and the more I read about it, the more essential it seemed to spend some time there. Your tips for a way to make it happen are so helpful.

    neckervd,
    Thanks so much for sending that detailed itinerary and information. I'm going to be an armchair traveler today and visit them all!

    I'd still welcome any and all suggestions for any part of our itinerary. I'm planning to start booking in the next day or so.

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