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Please, your advice for our trip to Switzerland Mar 4-11

Please, your advice for our trip to Switzerland Mar 4-11

Old Feb 6th, 2002, 02:20 PM
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Please, your advice for our trip to Switzerland Mar 4-11

Yrs. ago in the summer, we traveled to Gsstad, Zermatt, Interlaken (Jungfrau). On Mar 4 - 11 we plan a driving trip in CH, possibly going first from Zurich to Chur area, then to Geneva, Bern, and back to Zurich. We'll appreciate your suggestions as our itinerary is very flexible. We're seniors from So. Calif and wonder about the winter driving conditions. Your recommendations, please.
Old Feb 7th, 2002, 06:35 AM
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Why do you plan to drive at all? The destinations you listed--Geneva, Bern, Zurich, Chur, are very well served by the trains. You have four destinations listed and seven days--I think you'd do better to forget driving and stick to the railways.
Old Feb 7th, 2002, 06:46 AM
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I agree completely with BTilke's advice; there is no real reason to go by car. To me, a car only turns a vacation into work!! As an added incentive, you can check your baggage through on the train for a fee of something like 13 chf; you can even get a special tag and check your baggage from your US airport directly to your first Swiss destination (but this costs about $20).

Anyway, I also suggest you avoid Geneva in favor of some smaller towns on Lake Geneva. I really love Montreux, though you should also consider Vevey or Chexbres or Rivaz as a base for the area. Here is my personal list of things to do from Montreux:

Spend a morning walking along the 11km flowered lakeside promenade from Clarens to Villeneuve, passing the Chateau Chillon along the way; there are plenty of cafes to stop and have a coffee & snack along the way to replenish your strength. There are also plenty of benches to sit and read, watch other walkers, or simply stare at the majesty of the lake and the mountains in the distance.

Every few months, the city gardeners construct witty and elaborate sculptures along the promenade. The first one I saw used colorful flowers to represent paint spilling from large cans, with large straw brooms to represent paint brushes; another year there were six-foot spiders in the trees and nine-foot ants along the way; one year there were large cows; last November I saw the gardeners working on six-foot godzillas and lizard monsters.

Top off your long walk with a wonderful pizza & beer lunch at a lakeside café in Villeneuve, then take the ferry back to Montreux (I think the ferry stops in late Sep/Oct).

Spend the morning in Vevey hunting down the antiques shops in the old town. Then have lunch at the Hostellerie de Geneve on the Pl. Marche (reviewed -- sort of-- in NY Times Travel section. Go to www.nytimes.com, then to the archives of "What's Doing," then find "What's Doing in Vevey" from summer '99).

Take the train (the “wine train”) from Vevey to Chexbres, then spend a morning walking the vineyards down to the lake, hitting Rivaz & St. Saphorin. For lunch, find the Auberge du Rivaz (in Rivaz . . . ) with a terrace lake view or see if any of the cellars are having a cheese/wine tasting.

Cully (esp. the Auberge du Raisin) and Lutry's well-posted tour of medieval sites are worth a trip as well.

Spend a day in the mountains, taking the train to the resort of Gstaad. On the way back, stop at Chateaux d'Oex, where the only successful round-the-world-by-hot-air-balloon trip was launched. Or stop at Glion for lunch at the Hotel Victoria with its panoramic views of the lake; then walk the rest of the way down to Montreux on a stair-step path through the forest (or take the train or the funicular to Territet).

Spend an afternoon in the medieval village of Gruyeres, making sure to sample the berries in creme-double.

Spend an afteroon in Nyon at the Roman museum and the Caesar's columns nearby.

Spend a morning walking up to Montreux's old city & the museum & the old church. Fantastic views from the old church (can't remember the name -- but it's prominent in the old city). Have lunch at the restaurant at the museum.

Here are the websites:
www.montreux.ch (find their picture gallery)
www. lutry.ch
www.concierge.com (type in "Switzerland" as a
destination, then go to "Lausanne & the Alps").

E-mail me if you'd like more info on Montreux or Fly/Rail baggage.

Old Feb 7th, 2002, 06:57 AM
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You cannot drive from Chur via the alps to Geneva in winter (pass roads are closed) - you must drive the motorways via Zurich and Bern to Geneva. This is not reasonable.

Take the train! From Chur to Brig you can use the Glacier Express, there you change and go directly to Lake Geneva.

By the way, why do you want to stay in cities in early March? It is better to stay in smaller villages on Lake Geneva, Lake Thun or in Ticino.

Old Feb 10th, 2002, 06:11 AM
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Hello Letha. I hope you've been convinced by now that the Swiss trains are the way to go! (the buses are fine, too). Swandav, Ingo, and BTike are giving you the best advice. I can add a couple of suggestions. It is possible to visit Bern for the day by train either from a town on Geneva's shore or from a town on Lake Thun (Ingo's suggestion). Since you stayed in Interlaken previously, you might wish to experience the French Switzerland by choosing the Lavaux area of Lac Leman, which s' has already sold you on I'm sure! You not only will be able to visit Geneva and Bern from those towns, but don't forget graceful Lausanne! You might consider (if you plan three stops) Lucerne as your third -- though I have to say that on my last trip, Zurich began to make a place for itself in my heart as I finally discovered its small old-town streets. By the way, if you can locate the 'support group for those who love Switzerland' thread, I think that is where Ingo writes quite a bit about Chur. You might be interested in what she has to say.

I can't tell from your 2/6 note if the March 4 - 11 are on-the-ground dates. If they include your flights, then you don't have much time. Please consider staying no fewer than three nights in a place -- especially if we've convinced you to use the trains. Maybe you'll become as hooked on Switzerland as we are, and you'll return again and again. Bon Voyage! J.
Old Feb 14th, 2002, 06:03 PM
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Thanks to all of you for your input. We cancelled our auto rental and will indeed travel by train taking into consideration the advise all of you gave us.
Old Feb 15th, 2002, 05:10 AM
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Hello Letha, Your travel dates are coming soon! I'm still wondering how many actual days you'll have in Switzerland. By the way, if your destinations are still undecided, you might want to visit a weather site to see what to expect. Coming from southern California, you might not enjoy a rainy season, and I know the weather is quite different in various regions of Switzerland. Maybe if Ingo or Ursula see this thread, they'll be able to contribute advice in that regard. Please let us know how the trip turns out. Hope you have a wonderful time. J.
Old Feb 15th, 2002, 07:26 AM
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This might sound like a stupid question, but how do you get from the train stations to the hotels/restaurants, etc? Is taxi service readily available in Switzerland? What about in the much smaller villages? I wouldn't think you'd want to limit your choice of accomodations and/or dining to just those places close enough to the train station, schlepping your luggage along. We've only traveled Switzerland twice, once as part of a bus tour, and the other time we rented a vehicle. The train travel sounds wonderful, but I'd need reassurance on the logistics before attempting it!
Old Feb 15th, 2002, 07:49 AM
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inquiring --

Well, remember the sage comment from Rick Steves: you can't travel cheap and happy and heavy. I usually opt for the happy and heavy. I'm one of the happy "schlepping" crowd.

If I'm arriving in a town that I know, I usually schlepp my bags to the hotel, and I'm happy to do it. I'm usually very happy to be able to stretch my legs and to get a wonderful stroll in a great town. But then I'm in pretty good shape (twenty years in the US Army, after all . . .) and consider a few miles to be a nice . . . start.

Once, arriving in the middle of a sweltering August afternoon, I schlepped my bags (one 24-inch rolling with attached carry-on) about 1.5 miles to a five-star hotel (got a great rate). I arrived pretty sweaty and scary. The hotel management, after a quick look of disbelief, treated me with all the grace and charm of their profession. It was the only way to go!

But if I'm arriving in a town that's unfamiliar, I go ahead and pay for a taxi. I've found that they're readily available, even in very small villages. If there's not a taxi stand outside the train station, you can usually call one. Or call your hotel for pickup service. One of the advantages of staying in smaller villages is that the distances -- either by taxi or by schlepp -- are easily managed.

For dinners, I usally walk. Occasionally take a taxi *to* and walk back.

So I guess the answer is a combination of walking and taxis. If you don't pack light, or if you can't move your bags along alone, or if you haven't budgeted for taxis, you probably should consider renting a car. I travel alone, and it's actually cheaper for me to budget in a few taxis with the train than to rent a car for the whole trip.

Old Feb 15th, 2002, 07:57 AM
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To Inquiring: My husband and I have traveled in Switzerland many times and NEVER use anything but trains and buses.
We don't take more luggage than we can easily carry so we can walk where we need to go even if it's a distance from the stations. In small villages, this is the best plan. The hotels are generally not far from the stations. In the more touristy areas such as car-free Zermatt, Saas Fee, etc. the hotels have electric carts that can come and pick you up. Bigger cities like Basel have public transportation systems. Basel's trolley system is easy and fun to use. I have never used a taxi in Europe, but I'm sure they are available in all but the small villages. However, I still think the best approach is to pack light and be able to carry your stuff for up to at least one mile. Try it! All the walking makes you feel less guilty about eating all that wonderful Swiss chocolate too.
Old Feb 17th, 2002, 12:00 PM
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I'd echo the others: take trains. Their fun, easy, clean, on-time, go virtually everywhere and allow you to see the scenery.

As for where to go, I'm partial to Luzern and Bern, though early March can bring cold/rainy weather. Ticino (Locarno, Lugano) region is quite a bit warmer and more likely to have sun. Beautiful scenery on train from Zurich and great italian ambiance combined with Swiss civility. Diverse foods make it fun for those of you with german or italian taste buds (though more italian options available there). Enjoy! Gute Reise!
Old Feb 18th, 2002, 07:13 AM
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Would recommend taking the small train from Chur up to Arosa. The trip takes one hour each direction, and the scenery is breathtaking. We have been to Switzerland dozens of times, and that is our favorite train ride and destination.
If you have to leave something out, I would skip Geneva and Bern. If you want to go to Lake Geneva, other towns of interest are Montreaux, Vevey and on the French side Evian.
Old Feb 23rd, 2002, 05:28 AM
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mrtw, why is Arosa your favorite destination? Can you write a bit more about it? J.

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