Palenque's Scenic Swiss Trains

Old Jul 23rd, 2007, 08:11 AM
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Copying a thread in which i posed the question about anyone having first-hand report on new Lauterbrunnen-Grutschalp cable car that replaced old funicular and which recently opened:

Author: mish42
Date: 03/13/2007, 02:38 pm
Hello Swiss Rail Experts:

We are a family of 2 adults and 2 children, who will be of ages 5 & 6 when we are in Switzerland this summer. I understand that with a railpass we can get a family card that allows the children to travel for free. My question is this: on the transportation modes that we only receive 50% off, do our children still go for free or do they then have to pay 50% of the childrens rate. For Example, the part of trip up to Jungfraujoch. What would be the charge for them if we have a Railpass or if we don't have one?
We will be arriving in Zurich airport, travelling direct to Murren, which wil be our base as we explore the BO for 4 days. The we will return to Zurich. Since it's 6 days total, we;d have to get the 8 day Adults saver pass. Is 2nd class ok? Thanks in advance for assistance.



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Author: enzian
Date: 03/13/2007, 02:48 pm
Second class is fine. But you would probably be better off with a 3-day or 4-day FlexiPass ($156 or $189) instead of the 8-consecutive day pass ($235). The FlexiPass still give you 50% off the high mountain lifts, even on "non-travel" days.

I don't know that the official word is on children up to the Jungfraujoch, but ours went free on the family card, while the adults paid 50%.





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Author: mish42
Date: 03/13/2007, 03:00 pm
So, if we got a 4 day flexipass, one day would be used for the trip Zurich to Murren (my understanding from another posting is that all legs of this trip are covered at 100% - correct?). Another day would be used for same return trip. Leaving 2 days to use around BO. Precisely which lifts are included when you say "high mountain" lifts are covered 50% even on no travel days? What about transport from Murren back down to Lauterbrunnen on thos days not using the flexipass? I guess paying that would be cheaper than buying the more expensive 8 day pass? Thanks for you help.



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Author: PalenQ
Date: 03/13/2007, 03:08 pm
My understanding is that kids, with the free Family Pass that comes with the passes you buy (kids must be accompanied by a parent - grandparents don't count) the kids ALWAYS go free.

Anytime you buy a 50% off ticket on things not covered by your pass or on days you don't use a flexipass the kids get a corresponding ticket free (or just hop on sans any ticket)

There have been conflicting views of this on Fodors in past but it was determined that this was the case.

For the ultimate word on this call BETS (800-441-2387) Swiss rail experts who in my years of buying various passes thru them will have the definite answer; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and their page of Swiss trains and passes may also clarify this question. 2nd class is fine for you - Jungfrau trains are only single class i believe and trains and lifts to Murren as well. Swiss Pass covers in full to Murren.



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Author: enzian
Date: 03/13/2007, 03:11 pm
A very attractive feature of the FlexiPass, new this year, is that it operates as a half-fare card on your "non-travel" days, for the days between your first and last day. So you would use 2 days (the first and last) getting to and from Mürren. You might need only one more "covered" day---say if you were going to ride down to Lauterbruennen and up the other side to Kleine Scheidegg and the Jungfraujoch. To just ride the new cablecar down from Mürren to Lauterbrunnen, you could use the half-price feature and not use up one of your travel days. This ride is pretty inexpensive.

Just be sure to write in the date on the pass on each day you are acually using it, just before you board the first lift or train.

Mürren is a good choice for a family with children the ages of yours. They should be able to walk down to Gimmelwald, for example. If the walk back up seems too much, you can ride the cable car back. There are usually some cows to see on that walk, as well as lovely views. You could also walk with them to Grutschalp, a level walk along the train route, and then ride the train back.



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Author: PalenQ
Date: 03/13/2007, 03:15 pm
Practically everything that moves in Switzerland is covered on 50% off on off days on flexipass. (Though someone recently listed some obscure lift somewhere that wasn't.) But i'm pretty sure all in the BOB are 50% off - you will get a map with the pass showing lines with 50% off.
The Stechelberg-Gimmelwald-Murren lift and Lauterbrunnen-Grutschalp lift and then train along the cliff to Murren is 100% covered by Swiss pass - these are about the only aerial cableways in Suisse that seem to be covered 100%.
so yes you can profitably use the other two days getting up and down from Murren. And since the Swiss Pass on 100% covered days is also a Museum Pass good to over 400 Swiss Museums on 100% days if you want to go to Ballenberg Open-Air museum that's worth about $15 a head for adults.
(Excellent journey for adults and kids - go down to Interlaken-Ost from Murren and hop on lake boats on Lake Brienz to float to Brienz and then take train to Meiringen to get postal bus to Ballenberg Museum, an open-air museum set in pastures overlooking the lake. Kids will love the demonstrations of old farming techniques and such - many old buildings moved here in an open-air park of old-fashioned techniques. Return to Interlaken directly from Meiringen by train or by rail/boat. this would be a great use of a 100% covered pass day as it's 100% good on all the lifts, trains, boats, museums, buses involved.



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Author: PalenQ
Date: 03/14/2007, 11:06 am
By the way i wonder if anyone has first hand report on the new aerial cable way from Lauternrunnen's train station up the cliff to Grutschalp, which replaces the old ground-based funicular this winter.
All i know is that it's open but haven't heard anything about it. Suppose it's like the Stechelberg-Gimmelwald cable, one of the most thrilling i've been on.



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Author: PalenQ
Date: 06/02/2007, 11:21 am
any word on the new Lauaterbrunnen-Grutschalp lift?



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Author: PalenQ
Date: 06/07/2007, 01:22 pm
anyone taken this lift - is it about the same as the thrilling one down the valley at Stechelberg to Gimmelwald?



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Author: enzian
Date: 06/07/2007, 02:43 pm
PalenQ---I started a separate thread with this inquiry (and pointing out the fact taht sbb.ch does not show this connection as a cablecar, intead of a train). No response from anyone who has actually ridden the lift.



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Author: PalenQ
Date: 06/08/2007, 02:23 pm
Enzian - i guess it's running and we can take a ride free via YouTube

YouTube - Cable Car in Switzerland 2006 *
New Lauterbrunnen - Grutschalp Cable car 01:00. From ...
1min -
www.youtube.com/watch?v=paznOtbx9BU


YouTube - LSMS Murren - Stechelberg
Check out when cable car starts descending over 500 m. high ...
Watch video - 3min -
www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqoagATtejY





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Author: enzian
Date: 06/08/2007, 04:48 pm
Cool! We'll be on tht lift in 3 weeks and one day (Am I counting????) If no one has reported back by then. . . I will.



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Author: MarkvonKramer
Date: 06/08/2007, 07:29 pm
PalenQ,

Thanks to your and Bob-Brown's advice, we used this conveyance the last week of May. It follows the old funicular exactly and is spectacular. The view across to Wengen and the valley below is one of the most breath-taking sights we have ever witnessed. The view was far better than that from the cable car at the Stechelberg end of the valley, and that ain't bad!

MvK



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Author: mish42
Date: 06/09/2007, 01:45 am
can't wait! We'll be there next month, staying in Murren for 5 nights.



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Author: PalenQ
Date: 06/09/2007, 10:11 pm
<The view was far better than that from the cable car at the Stechelberg end of the valley, and that ain't bad!>

Marvon - WOW - i thought the Stechelberg-Gimmelwald lift was so awesome now i can't wait to do the new one that seems even more breathtaking. Thanks.

And Enziane - awaiting your experience as well!
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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 07:19 AM
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CHANGE IN SWISS PASS AND JUNGFRAU RAILWAYS

Previously i wrote about the Swiss Pass, even the flexipass when not using one of your 100% covered travel days, giving 50% off everything that 'moves in Switzerland except cows' and except for a few obscure cableways off the tourist path that few would ever take it was true. And still is true, but as of July, 2007, according to www.sbb.ch web site there has been a change as regards to the discount and the Jungfrau Railways in the BOB

Though the Swiss Pass still gets a 50% discount off normal fares for trains above Grindelwald and Wengen - places to which the Swiss Pass takes you with full coverage - above these towns en route to Kleine Schiedegg and Jungfraujoch ('Summit of Europe' and Europe's highest train station) there is now, for Swiss Pass holders, a CHF 27 surcharge.

When taken into account on the whole trip to the summit and back from either Grindelwald or Wengen the CH27 supplement makes the overall discount an effective 25% or so - back to what it was prior to 2006 when the Swiss Pass discounts on nearly every cable, gondola, trains to mountain tops, etc. was changed from 25% to 50%

All other 50% discounts remain the same it seems - Schilthorn, etc. though i will be checking on those as well.

Eurailpasses valid in Switzerland have gotten 25% off Jungfrau Railways and there is no word on sbb.ch indicating they have to pay the CHF 27 (+-$20) surcharge.

Any definitive word would be appreciated.

Not sure how Half-Fare card, Swiss Card, etc. are affected - sbb.ch just mentions Swiss Pass.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2007, 07:25 AM
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saving
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Old Aug 6th, 2007, 07:41 AM
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SWISS SPECIALTY TRAINS BUMP UP OBSERVATION CARS

Trains like the Golden Pass (Lucerne-Interlaken-Spiez-Montreux), William Tell (Lucerne via boat to Fluelen- train to Lugano) and the Glacier Express (Zermatt-St Moritz/Chur/Davos) all have inaugurated new Observation or Panoramic cars on their trains.

Whilst the signature thing about a Panoramic car remains the glass roof providing a whole panorama the new such cars have such things as revolving seats.

The William Tell has taken this to a new height as they now have seats that revolve as the train twists and turns - automatically.

Such seats on the Golden Pass (Montreux-Zweissimmen portion) also revolve but not automatically. But on this line there are special VIP observation seats in the very front of the train - with a handful actually perched next to and above the driver so it seems like you are driving.

The Glacier Express closed down for a few months last year to completely rehab its cars and now the new Observation cars allow passengers to have meals served at seats - i guess with those unique tilting wine glasses. Glacier Express is unique i think in that some trains have Observation cars in 2nd class. the supplement for the Glacier Express, with the new cars, however has soared to around $35 above a pass price. (Eurailpasses pay much more because the Zermatt-Brig-Disentis portion is not covered.)

The William Tell is first class only and second class pass or ticket holders have to pay a heft surchge of about $45, which however includes a nice meal on the boat.

Eurailpasses cover the basic train fare in full for William Tell (1st class passes only of course) and all of the Golden Pass route.

There are observation cars in first class also on some other mainline trains such as i believe Zurich-Milano-Nice.

Observation cars are also getting hard to book - so if you'd wish to experience these fancy cars (but the scenery is the same of course from any car!) book early. Especially hard to book are the VIP seats on Golden Pass Montreux-Zweissimmen. check out www.swisstravelsystem.com for details on all these trains. Save handling fees by booking Observation cars when you buy your Swiss Pass (for passes and especially for reservations in such cars i always highly recommend BETS 800-441-2387; www.budgeteuropetravel.com for their expertise and accessibility by phone and lack of RailEurope's mailing fees for orders under $399.

Anyone ridden any of the newly rehabbed/new Observation cars - especially the auto revolving seats on the William Tell.

Note that i generally recommend 2nd class as being fine for most folks on Swiss trains but if taking a few of the first-class Observation cars you may want to opt for a first class pass as the supplements needed to upgrade to first class could be about the price differential between passes perhaps and there are always benefits on any train in first class, though not as much difference in Suisse than in other countries.
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Old Aug 7th, 2007, 06:08 AM
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Re: Observation cars

I'm a bit conflicted on this. Though i loved the novelty of the swivel chairs on the Golden Pass train to montreux and the all glass ceiling IME these cars are often packed full - often with tour groups and as i'm one who'd rather be in a sparsely populated car where i can hop from one side of the train to the other as scenery dictates i actually prefer to take regular trains along these routes instead of the few daily official Golden Pass, Bernina Express trains etc.

Local trains accept no reservations and are rarely packed.

But then there's the lure of the new automatically swiveling seats on the William Tell and on the Golden Pass i was delighted for those swivel yourself seats as well.

So i'm conflicted. And it's simply very hard to make reservations in the Observation cars on the spot it seems - probably due to tour groups that even in off season can book them up.

So rather than reserve weeks in advance i demand flexibility so i would try to reserve locally and if not just take the local trains.

Note the Glacier Express however is just about the only way to go between St Mortiz and Zermatt in one day - only trains that go thru. Locals you need to change a few times and yes if you start out at 6am you may get to Zermatt by 10pm or so.
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Old Aug 7th, 2007, 08:22 AM
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bookmarking
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Old Aug 8th, 2007, 06:03 AM
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Swiss trains were one of the last ones in Europe to allow smoking but all that has changed and either now or soon all smoking will be banned.

Thus the old color code of red seats for smokers and green for non-smoking will become irrelevant.

I hope i have the color scheme right!
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Old Aug 8th, 2007, 06:19 AM
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Palen Q...in 2005, we saw smoking on trains. In 2006, I didn't see it allowed on ANY trains and we took some very small ones as well. It sure was a blessed relief. Now, if they could clean up some of the restaurants. We had to eat outside almost all the time!
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Old Aug 8th, 2007, 06:48 AM
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>Swiss trains were one of the last ones in Europe to allow smoking but all that has changed and either now or soon all smoking will be banned.

Pal, where have you been? Smoking is banned on all Swiss trains for almost 2 years now.
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Old Aug 8th, 2007, 08:39 AM
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i guess i was thinking of Germany - it's true there yes - ICE trains the last car is for smokers and soon to be extinguished.

thanks for correcting my serious gaffe (but a recent RailEurope epistle said this too)
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Old Aug 8th, 2007, 08:51 AM
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>(but a recent RailEurope epistle said this too)

Shows what they know
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Old Aug 9th, 2007, 06:24 AM
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but remember Swiss Railways owns about a third of Rail Europe - figure that one out.
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Old Aug 9th, 2007, 07:45 AM
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>but remember Swiss Railways owns about a third of Rail Europe

The fact they own the RE stock doesn´t mean there is a lot of communication between the companies.
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Old Aug 9th, 2007, 10:41 AM
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Obviously.

and i'm still wondering why Swiss Passes are so much cheaper if bought in U.S. than same pass bought at Swiss stations - or do they even know there is a difference?
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Old Aug 10th, 2007, 06:39 AM
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TYPES OF SWISS CONVEYANCES: A Matter of Gauge; Cog-Wheel or Rack-and-Pinion; Funiculars; Cable Cars; Chairlifts; Trams; Buses; Postal Buses; Boats

A Matter of Gauge - gauge is i think the width of the tracks - how far apart they are.

Standard gauge is the gauge used throughout Europe for most mainline trains (except Spain, Portugal and Finland also use Broad Gauge - wider tracks than most of Europe - one reason so few trains can go across these borders except the few Talgo-like trains that have wheel bases that can move apart or be cranked in at the border:

example the Pau Casals Trainhotel Elipsos that begins in Zurich each night and then stops in Bern, Freibourg, Lausanne and Geneva before ending up at 9am in Barcelona's Franca station. this runs on normal 'standard gauge' tracks in Suisse and France then cranks its wheels apart to go on the wider Spanish tracks to Barcelona. One of the few trains that can go thru the border.

Switzerland also has many narrow-gauged tracks that are closer together than Standard Gauge - and there seem to be at least two different narrow gauge (could be more) - the normal metre-gauge narrow-gauge, where tracks i guess are one metre apart - as on the extensive routes of many non-SBB lines such as Zermatt-Disentis-Chur-Davos/St Moritz; St Moritz-Bernina Pass-Tirano Italy and, the only one run i believe by the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB in German) - the Lucerne-Interlaken Ost line - i could be wrong about it being the only one - it is said to be the only cog-assisted SBB line however.

Most narrow-gauge lines run thru rugged terrain necessitating narrower rights of way and i believe the smaller trains can climb easier, etc.

But there are smaller gauges than the metre-gauge common throughout Switzerland - such as the even tinier gauge used Lauterbrunnen-Wengen-Kleine Scheidegg-Grindelwald (BOB Railways) - again i think because climbs are more pronounced.

Not sure of all the technical reasons but there are at least three gauges and this prevents transferring to other gauged lines - such as at Interlaken Ost - trains from Lucerne over the Brunig Pass must terminate there and all change to normal gauged trains to Spiez and Zweisimmen

this is why the Golden Pass train cannot offer thru running Lucerne-interlaken-Zweisimmen-Montreux and all have to change trains in Interlaken, Zweisimmen (normal gauge to narrow gauge) - this is a problem for Golden Pass who would like a Glacier Express like seamless Lucerne-Montreux train and serious thoughts about putting a third rail on the Interlaken-Zweisimmen portion to accommodate thru running.

And likewise Interlaken-Lauterbrunnen-Wengen you have to change at Lauterbrunnen because of gague differences - ditto Interlaken-Grindelwald-Kleine Scheidegg.

NEXT COG-ASSISTED TRAINS
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Old Aug 10th, 2007, 07:56 AM
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Love the cogs!! That was the best part of the Glacier Express!

Here's one for you....a HOG assisted train!

http://www.dot.state.ga.us/dot/plan-...OG_Engine1.JPG
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Old Aug 10th, 2007, 12:03 PM
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thanks for the laugh!

cogs - ah yes when you see the train slow to a crawl to engage the cog mechanism and then lurch forward slightly when engaged and then the little cog sound as the train actually uses the cog and cogwheel to climb... that's exciting even to me for the ten thousandth time.
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Old Aug 11th, 2007, 06:12 AM
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cog railway and rack and pinion are the same i believe and involves a pinion or cog wheel that fits into the cog tracks in the middle of the tracks

thus the train climbs much like someone climing a stair or descending of course to gain traction going up and help braking going down.

My technical description would probably have me flunking civil engineering but that's the idea.

It is only used on significantly steep grades.

And in Switzerland that means many of them - always on narrow-gauge lines.

The only mainline cog-assisted train run by the Swiss Federal Railways i believe is the Lucerne-Brunig Pass-Interlaken-Ost.

But many of the so-called private railways (private meaning it seems non SBB as i think all are heavily subsidized by federal or local governments) use cogs.

so when the train slows to a crawl and you hear some gurgling sound underneath you are hearing the cogwheel engaging with the cogged track and then accelerate a bit after engaged. There is a clicking sound until the cog-assisted part ends.
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Old Aug 14th, 2007, 06:19 AM
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FUNICULARS

Of all the quaint Swiss conveyances i perhaps like funiculars the best.

A funicular operates on a simple method - it consists usually of two cars linked together by a cable. As one car descends, it pulls the other car up - the of course pay at a midway point and the tracks correspondingly diverge here.

It does run on tracks, so is a railway i guess. They also have electric power but gravity is a key part it seems.

Funiculars move slow and silently - the seats are often in rows and face down or up as you go - looking down can be a bit scary for folks afraid of heights.

Though there are quite a few short funiculars in cities like Lausanne (though i think that one has been converted to a metro) it's the really long ones i enjoy, though these are few and fewer in number after the Lauterbrunnen-Grutschalp one was replaced by an aerial cable way last fall.

Swiss passes seem to cover long funiculars, unlike gondolas, which they usually cover 50%.
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Old Aug 15th, 2007, 11:04 AM
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The best funicular i've been on in Switzerland is the long, long one - must be longest in Europe that goes in at least two stages from Sierre SBB train station to Montana or Crans-Montana, a spiffy ski resort that looms over the Rhone Valley and the town of Sierre far below.

This is an antique-looking device that creeps up a steep slope ever so slowly - there are several intermediate stations where locals get on and off.

Covered in full by a Swiss Pass - you can walk from Montana to Crans and then take a postal bus down to Sion and the Sion SBB station.

Sion is a nice enough but modern town but which has two great crags on its edge, each with a castle - one ruined as i remember and the other intact. A great but short hike from Sion leads you there.

Rave views from the crags over the vineyard-clad Rhone Valley.
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