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Switzerland-Aug 25 to Sept.5

Old Feb 16th, 2010, 11:51 AM
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Switzerland-Aug 25 to Sept.5

My husband & I are planning to travel to Switzerland the end of August. We have never been before & not certain where to start. Should we fly into Zurich or Geneva. We will take trains & do not want to rent a car. We like to walk around an area & 'explore'. Would prefer to stay in only 2 different places so we don't have to drag our luggage around on the train. Looking for good hotels & restaurants. We do not eat meat but love chocolate. Thanks.
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Old Feb 16th, 2010, 12:17 PM
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I think you need to do some research about the different areas, cities and towns of Switzerland. You may be uncertain where to start, but we don't know anything about your interests, whether you like cities/towns more than mountains (or vice versa), whether you like museums or prefer to wander, etc. Just saying you only want to stay in two places doesn't help us help you.

If you want hotel recommendations, you need to tell us your budget.
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Old Feb 16th, 2010, 12:20 PM
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You could fly into Zürich and out of Geneva, and pick two scenic spots in between for your bases. There is a scenic train route that conntects these through the heart of Switzerland, traveling along several lakes and up over the mountains at two points. The general route is Zurich----Luzern---Brienz--Interlaken---Spiez---Zweisimmen---Montreux--Geneva.

I would suggest you consider three stops, at Luzern (2-3 nights), a mountain village near Interlaken (4 nights) and somewhere along Lac Leman (Lake Geneva), such as Montreux or Vevey (4 nights). Or if you want to keep to two places, then maybe Brienz (a small lakeside town) instead of Luzern and the mountain village. But I think you'd miss something by not spending a few nights in one of the mountain villages. And Luzern is lovely.

Chocolate is easy to find everywhere, and Swiss cuisine has lots to offer besides meat. Salads, pasta, and other vegetarian options are on nearly every menu. Do you eat fish?
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Old Feb 16th, 2010, 12:52 PM
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Trains are the best way for folks who have never been to Switzerland IMO and who want to go to Alpine areas - the Switzerland etched in our minds' eyes - as cars are often off-limits in these areas and you must pay beaucoup bucks just to park them in places like Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Zermatt.

I think Enzian's suggested itinerary is a perfect one for a first-time visitor to Switzerland - you see the best of the Alps and bucolic countryside in between. And if traveling by train over that itinerary then some kind of Swiss Railpass IMO is a no-brainer - hop on hop off any train (except a few that go only to mountain tops and then you get 50% off most of those, including funiculars, aerial cable cars, etc) and also valid 100% on boats on many lakes - IMO doing a steamer ride on Lake Lucerne or Lake Geneva or, in the Berner Oberland, from Interlaken either Lake Thun or Brienz and also 100% on special scenic trains like the Golden Pass you can hop from Lucerne to Interlaken and Interlaken to Montreux. I've had dozens of Swiss Passes and always loved them - i used them more than i expected (like on a whim doing a late afternoon boat ride on some lake that i had not planned, etc.) Also good on all city trams and buses- virutally everything that moves in Switzerland besides cows! For loads on Swiss trains and passes i always spotlight these fantastic IMO sites - www.swisstravelsystem.com - links you to train schedules, lake boat companies, scenic trains, etc.; www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com (download their free and superb IMO European Planning & Rail Guide that has a sweet chapter on Switzerland with itineraries, maps, etc.; www.ricksteves.com. And yes those Swiss trains are just as fantastic as you've heard -so easy to use -esp with a pass - just hop aboard, that's all.
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Old Feb 16th, 2010, 01:40 PM
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I've flown in & out of Geneva on 5 different trips to Switzerland, then traveled from there by train (I have friends living in Vevey/Montreux). I *love* this part of Switzerland, along Lac Leman, it's very beautiful and very easy... so personally would recommend a part of your trip spent here. Lots of nice hotels and restaurants in either Vevey or Montreux.
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Old Feb 16th, 2010, 01:41 PM
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p.s. I am more drawn to the French-speaking part of the country (over the German or Italian) so that's another consideration for Lac Leman region... it's leans to the French style of things (language, food, etc.).
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Old Feb 16th, 2010, 02:51 PM
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suze---I was hoping you would see this and add your thoughts about Montreux/Vevey. tex13 posted a question on another thread and seemed specifically interested in Montreux. I suggested she start a new thread of her own, so here it is.

My suggestion above was that they start in Zürich and travel across on the Golden Pass route, flying out of Geneva. That way their time would be spent roughly 50-50 in the German-speaking and French-speaking parts of Switzerland. One "base" in each region. (Or 2 in the German-speaking region if they add Luzern).

I am far more familiar with the German-speaking areas so it's good to have someone speak to the Lac Leman area.
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Old Feb 16th, 2010, 03:36 PM
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Thank you all so much for your advice. The budgeteuropetravel site was just what I was looking for. I know that it's difficult to give advice on travel when the person is clueless but I think with your help this will be an amazing vacation. I want to book my plane tickets before there is a price increase & that is why I am so uncertain. As far as price for hotels is concerned I want to stay in a nice hotel without going bankrupt. If there is a very special place that you would recommend I have no problem to spend a little extra. I do eat fish but my husband does not. As long as he can get some sort of salad he'll be fine. Many restaurants are very accommodating to vegetarians. Enzain thanks for making it so easy for me.
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Old Feb 17th, 2010, 09:26 AM
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French and German parts of Switzerland IME are practically like going to different countries - not only because of the language difference but things look different - oddly everytime i go between the two i look out the train window at woodpiles - ones in the Germanic area are inevitably cut and stacked really straight - i know when i'm in the French part when the woodpiles become less rigidly straight - more haphazzard

Oddly enough IME German Swiss and French Swiss seem to rarely speak each other's language and thus seem to use English as a common language -great for the American or English-speaking tourist!

I would spend more time in the great Alpine areas like around Interlaken (Berner Oberland) and Zermatt - German-speaking areas but also some time in say Montreux or Vevey on the shores of idyllic Lake Geneva (a k a Lac LeMan) - and take a boat ride on the lake as well - you can even take a boat to Evian-les-Bains from Montreux, Vevey, etc. to add another country to your trip - Evian-l-Bain is a swank lakeside resort with a casino and of course Evian mineral water, which is bottled here. If you have a Swiss Pass it covers in full the boats, even going into France to Evian-les-Bains.
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Old Feb 19th, 2010, 11:54 AM
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As far as price for hotels is concerned I want to stay in a nice hotel without going bankrupt. If there is a very special place that you would recommend I have no problem to spend a little extra.>

I have found that hotels, across the board, in the Jungfrau Region are cheaper than in most of Switzerland - and you also have loads of guesthouses - family-run small hotels in effect with personal service, spotless rooms and all you can eat breakfasts and even perhaps evening meals, tailored to your meat-less choice perhaps.
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Old Feb 19th, 2010, 01:20 PM
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For Montreux I suggest Hotel Helvetie:
www.montreux.ch/helvetie

Or in Vevey (both these are hotels above restaurants in the central part of town):
www.hotelnegociants.ch
www.hotelgeneve.ch

Montreux/Vevey is approx. 1-hour train ride that ends right at the Geneva airport, so convenient for flying out (unless your flight is terribly early, you can just train in that same morning).
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Old Feb 22nd, 2010, 11:12 AM
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Montreux/Vevey are also sweet bases from which to hop to many neat nearby things - such as the famous Chateau Chillon and its associations with Lord Byron(I think or some such guy) - just a few miles down the lake from Montreux - trains and lake boats stop right by it or it's a pretty mellow few-mile stroll.
And the lake steamers in general - i've always loved just to get on these vintage paddlewheel steamers (OK the paddlewheels are Ersatz on many (but not all) of the boats - you can boat over to Evian-les-Bains, in France in an hour or so to see a bit of France and that swank spa town famed for its locally bottled mineral waters - pr float to Lausanne or Vevey or Montreux, etc.
If you have a Swiss pass then it is valid in full on the lake boats- special night time cruises may feature bands and meals but these require a supplement with using a pass on those.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2010, 12:38 PM
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Or from Montreux it's easy to do the Chocolate Train - a special train that goes first to Gruyeres - one of Europe's finest walled towns - and also visits a Cheese Factory there and then the train, a vintage Belle-Epoque Pullman train that serves wine and cheese en route - pulls into the Broc-Factory station to take a Willy Wonka tour thru the Nestle Chocolate Factory.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2010, 12:45 PM
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Booked my air-we are going to Zurich & leaving from Geneva. Started looking at hotels & they are all spectacular. Will definitely do the Swiss railpass. We will probably follow enzian's route-Luzern---Brienz--Interlaken---Spiez---Zweisimmen---Montreux--Geneva & go to different hotels along the trip. Just read melissa's forum & learned about nude hiking in the alps. I guess I really don't need to many clothes!!!!!!!
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Old Feb 23rd, 2010, 01:36 PM
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For Montreux definitely Chateux de Chillon. And the tram called Rocher de Nayes if the weather is clear (leaves from the Montreux train station but buy tickets at a separate office there for the tram).

If you make it to Gruyeres definitely include the castle there too. Different era from Chillon, but just as fascinating.

Another very cool thing is going to the local weekly open air Farmers Markets. Vevey's on Tues & Sat AM. Montreux on Fri AM.
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 06:43 PM
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How long will it take to go from Lake Geneva (probably Vevey) to Geneva Airport. Our flight leaves early & we need to be at the airport at 7am. Would it be better to stay in Geneva on our last night. Thanks!
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 07:25 PM
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Use the Swiss train website (www.rail.ch) to view the schedules. You'll see that there is a train that stops in Vevey at 6:01 am and goes to the Geneva airport with no changes, arriving at the airport at 7:13 am.

If you need to be there before that there are earlier trains as well.
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Old Feb 25th, 2010, 08:07 AM
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we need to be at the airport at 7am. Would it be better to stay in Geneva on our last night. Thanks!>

Well even though Swiss trains rarely go on strike or are really late for a flight that early i would stay in a hotel at the airport - the thing about having to travel an hour on a train there is that trains can always be late - for whatever reason - even in Switzerland IMO
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Old Feb 25th, 2010, 08:14 AM
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You can always stay at a hotel in Geneva itself the nigth before your flight....trains from downtown take less than 15 minutes to the airport.

You say you have to be there at 0700 but exactly what time does your flight leave and what is its destination?

The Geneva airport isn't all that big and is pretty easy to negotiate, even going through security.
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Old Feb 25th, 2010, 08:53 AM
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I've taken the train in from Vevey for early morning flights (it's about 1 hour) and the train station terminus is literally connected to the airport.
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