Switzerland part of 3-week trip

Reply

Jul 26th, 2017, 06:44 PM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 687
Switzerland part of 3-week trip

We (2 reasonably fit 60s/70s couples) will spend three weeks on a trip to France, Switzerland, and Italy in September/October, 2018. Our first week will include 3 nights in Lyon, 3-4 nights in Talloires, "one week" in Switzerland, and one week in Alba. We'll rent a car to drive to and keep in Talloires, train to Geneva. Our current thinking is to arrange a Swiss rail journey to include the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express, staying at the hotels the Swiss rail system puts together in its packages. Then train from Tirano to Milan, pick up rental car, drive to Alba for a week in Piemonte (scheduled to be in Alba for the truffle festival and donkey Palio).

We've selected our accommodations in Talloires and Alba, but nothing else

I know the Swiss rail system offers these multiple day packages, but have no idea if they are "good." Does anyone have experience with these packages and, if so, what is your impression?

TIA for your insights.
knoxvillecouple is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 26th, 2017, 07:30 PM
  #2
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 19,223
In Switzerland, the named (private) trains follow the same tracks as the regional (public) trains. The named trains have permanently closed panoramic windows that afford views of the sky; the regional trains have windows that allow full views of the scenery up to and including the sky (but not the sky directly overhead), and the regional train windows can be opened. The regional trains are much more frequent than the named trains, and you can get off and on quite easily. I, for one, was glad to opt for the regional trains, rather than the named ones. Here's a link to the incredibly informative Swiss Rail site:
https://www.sbb.ch/en/timetable.html

AND traveling by regional train would give you the option to tailor your time in Switzerland to your interests, not just the routes covered by the named trains.

Your trip, your call.

You might look at the Michelin Green Guide and/or the Rough Guide for Switzerland -- I found them the most useful of the half-dozen or so guidebooks I used when planning my time in Switzerland.

And you might find some useful information in my trip report:
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...any-thanks.cfm

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 26th, 2017, 07:37 PM
  #3
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 18,594
Milan is one city I really don't like driving in. There is an AutoEurope rental office in Lecco at the south end of Lake Como, two train stops before Milano Centrale. If the day and time work, I would pick up the rental car there. Office hours are M-F 8:30a-12:30p and 2:30p-6:30p. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

If you haven't driven in Italy before, you should learn all about ZTLs (zona traffico limitato) which are areas in most Italian towns of any size that you're not allowed to drive into without permission (usually only to reach your hotel). Each driver will need an International Driver's Permit.

https://www.italybeyondtheobvious.co...with-ztl-zones

Are you flying home from Milan?
Jean is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 26th, 2017, 07:40 PM
  #4
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 18,594
"... two train stops before Milano Centrale." I should have finished the sentence with "... as you're traveling from Tirano."
Jean is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 26th, 2017, 07:41 PM
  #5
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,554
Hi knoxvillecouple,

I don't think that a marketed trip will be any more enjoyable or more economical than a trip you can put together yourself. You may want to choose a different town than the one in the package, or you may want a hotel in a different location in town than the hotel in the package. I'm a bit picky with where I stay, especially after plunking down so much money, so I like to pick hotels according to my own criteria.

So if it were me, I would take a look at the offerings, then go and see what other options I could find. I use google maps a lot, both to locate towns & villages along a route as well as to locate hotels & pensions within towns or on lakes. You can use booking.com and/or trip advisor to look at hotel reviews.

I've taken both the Glacier Express and the Bernina Express. The Glacier Express is over-hyped, imo, as I only found one area along the 8-hour route really particularly pretty. The Bernina Express was wonderful; it's one of the top scenic trains in Switzerland, imo. I took the marketed, named Bernina Express going from St Moritz to Poschiavo, but I took a regional train coming back. Another thing to keep in mind about these trains is that you'll be among mostly tourists in the marketed, named train, while you'll be among locals and regional commuters in the regular regional train. I really preferred bring among the locals ...

Have fun as you plan!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2017, 12:40 AM
  #6
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 5,449
I suppose you know that Alba is much closer to Talloires than Bernina.
So, it could make sense to proceed by car from Talloires to Alba (170 miles, half of them on motorways)and then to Lugano (Switzerland) where you could park the car a few days in order to to the Bernina-Express - Glacier Express thing:
Day 1:
Lugano dp 10.00 - Tirano - Bernina Express - Pontresina ar 16.02, deposit your lugage in the hotel and go by gondola to Alp Languard or by funicular to Muottas Muragl (view points)and back
Day 2:
Pontresina dp 8.02 - Glacier Express - Fiesch ar 14.10 - gondola - Fiescheralp ar 14.37, deposit your lugage in the hotel and go by gondola to Eggishorn: tremenduous panorama all over Aletsch glacier up to Jungfrau at one side and to Monte Leone - Matterhorn - Weisshorn - Mont Blanc at the other side.
Day 3:
Fiescheralp dp by gondola 8.10 - Brig ar by train 9.06 dp by Post Bus 9.18 via Simplon Pass - Gondo Gorge to Domodossola ar 11.00, dp by scenic Centovalli train 11.25 - Locarno ar 13.19. Enjoy Locarno (luggage lockers at railway station) and may be Ascona and proceed then by train (every 30 min) to Lugano (scenic 1 hr journey).
Fetch your car and continue your journey through Switzerland. End your car trip at the French border (Basel airport, Geneva airport or so) in order to avoid high fees for car drop off outside France.
neckervd is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2017, 02:12 AM
  #7
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 32,486
Be aware that those windows in the Panorama cars on the two so-called "named" trains are HUGE and a lot bigger than the regular windows. The other thing you have to remember is the "named" trains go over the entire route; the locals may require changes to cover the same route.

Yes, the "named" trains have TOURISTS just like YOU and they can be very VERY full and depending upon where they are from they can also be "pushy" and impolite, too.
I'm not sure what the advantage of being "among the locals" actually is but I will say they might be more polite if nothing else than a bunch of visitors jockeying for positions, etc.

You can easily do the two segments yourself and taking the local trains allows for more diversions but that's only going to help you if you plan on DOING a lot of diversionary activity such as actually getting off the train somewhere and enjoying the local spot(s) before moving on (which IMO has some advantages).

I'd be VERY interested in which hotels those train packages include, too.
Dukey1 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2017, 03:12 AM
  #8
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,554
Dukey1,

The advantage, to me, of being among locals is in people-watching, one of my favorite activities.

As an American, I've seen a lot of other Americans and have done lots of watching of my compatriots. There's not a lot of mystery in the culture or the society left for me.

I'm also not enamored of watching huge clumps of Asian tourists, as I haven't been able to discern much of their interaction, mannerisms, etc, from people-watching when they're touring. Oh yes, I have done a lot of learning and people watching when I lived and was stationed in the Far East, but not when clumps of them travel together in Europe.

But I love to travel among locals and watch as they interact with each other and with me; see how they treat the elderly and the kids; see what they're reading or knitting, etc.

So, it makes a difference to me.

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2017, 06:39 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 73,919
Agree Glacier Express way overhyped -many find it a tedious all-day marathon trip thru yes lovely but not dramatic for much of the way.

Easy to get a Swiss Pass and book your own hotels - compare anyway - for lots on Swiss trains: www.sbb/ch; www.swisstravelsystem.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

I too prefer local regional trains over the BEX on the Bernina Pass route (awesomely scenic -don't miss it!)- just show up and hop any regional train -get on and off.
PalenQ is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2017, 09:32 AM
  #10
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 687
Thanks for all the thoughtful replies and suggestions.

Yes, we're aware that Alba is closer to Talloires than Tirano (end point of the Bernina Express), but the genesis of this trip really is the truffles festival and donkey palio and Piemonte - the Lyon/Annecy and Switzerland portions of the trip simply were added to extend the trip to areas we haven't visited before. In addition, we already have reservations at Villa La Favorita in Alba for the week incorporating the festival and palio (October 6-13). I guess we could reverse things, and "do" Lyon/Talloires, trip down to Alba for a week, and our final week in Switzerland after that. We obviously don't have any plane reservations yet, and haven't reserved our hotel in Talloires. We'll take this suggestion under consideration.

Regional vs. "named" trains - this preliminary thinking was really based on the SBB "package" combining the Glacier and Bernina Express trips. As a package "deal", SBB does identify the 3* and 4* hotels in Zermatt. St. Moritz, and Lugano, although I haven't checked any of them on TA or other review sites. Another part of our original thinking is based on our (mainly DW's) desire to reduce travel stress. I agree that travel planning is fun (and I'm doing it all for this trip), but there's a certain benefit to reducing options rather than increasing them - if any "mistakes" are made, I can blame it on the SBB package planners rather than being stressed during the adventure about whether I've picked the "best" hotel, the "best" train travel dates, etc.

All this being said, however, I will take a harder look at all your suggestions so as to benefit from your experience and expertise. Many thanks!
knoxvillecouple is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2017, 09:43 AM
  #11
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 73,919
Another part of our original thinking is based on our (mainly DW's) desire to reduce travel stress. I agree that travel planning is fun (and I'm doing it all for this trip), but there's a certain benefit to reducing options rather than increasing them ->

Very true. And understood and SBB packages can be good deals -some I've seen have you on trains most of the time which some may love others not. But nothing wrong with a package IMO.
PalenQ is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2017, 12:40 PM
  #12
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 73,919
(scheduled to be in Alba for the truffle festival and donkey Palio).

Wow what a weird combo - nothing to trifle at I guess. Is it true that the asses feret out the trifles in the countryside?

Oh pardon my being a trifle obtuse!
PalenQ is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2017, 03:01 PM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 687
Oh what a wicked wit you weave! As long as the donkeys lead us to Barolos
to have with our truffles, we'll be sated!
knoxvillecouple is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2017, 03:16 PM
  #14
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 73,919
As long as the donkeys lead us to Barolos
to have with our truffles, we'll be sated!>

Is it legal to eat donkeys? What do they taste like -with and sans truffles?

Go Vols NOT!
PalenQ is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2017, 03:30 PM
  #15
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 19,223
I can understand that booking a package greatly simplifies your planning, but I would encourage you to investigate a bit. St. Moritz would not be my choice of a place to stay in the Engadine; YMMV.
kja is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2017, 03:34 PM
  #16
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 73,919
Many love nearby Pontresina however -also on GE and BE express lines I believe - anyway short distance by rail from St Moritz a town few seem to take a shine to here - I've been thru it a few times and it seemed like a rather glitzy modern town lacking the rustic feel you love in Switzerland and which I got at Pontresina once when I stayed there.
PalenQ is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 27th, 2017, 08:00 PM
  #17
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,554
Hi again,

I'd just like to suggest that plotting the included hotels on google maps would be at least as helpful as looking them up at Trip Advisor. Location within a town, to me, is key.

Also like to say that I'd also avoid St. Moritz ... I'd go for Silvaplana, Sils, Zuoz, or, yes, Pontresina.

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Reply With Quote
Jul 28th, 2017, 03:18 AM
  #18
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 499
Knoxville:

One thing you will get on this board is a large range of different opinions, whether you are ready for them or not. I am of the same age as you are and find that as I grow older, sometimes I would rather have someone else make the decision for me and be responsible for it. It is just easier and takes the load off oneself. In my corporate career, I was required to make many decisions that affected a great number of people.

I have done all the above of what you are asking about, both planned by myself (local trains) and those trips taken as part of a packaged deal (panorama trains) on the BE and the GE. I like trains and ride them whenever I can. I have also attended the Palio in Alba during truffle season and had a marvelous time and ate truffles (without donkey). The race was very enjoyable to me.

If cost is an issue, compile the costs yourself and compare to those of the package. If not an issue, then do what you are comfortable with. If you find the cost comparable, do what is easier for you. So what, if people here don't agree with you?

In August, my wife and I will embark on a 5 week visit to Italy, all planned by myself. I can do it, but the question always lingers, have I chosen the best possible (whatever best is)?
Huggy is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 28th, 2017, 03:09 PM
  #19
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 19,223
OMG, I'm so glad I don't try to identify the "best" anything! I can't imagine the burden that thinking of travel choices must carry for those who think of it that way! And I'm sure there are reasons for approaching it that way, at least some times.... I'm not criticizing the strategy, just expressing a reaction.
kja is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jul 29th, 2017, 12:56 AM
  #20
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 5,449
In the case you plan to travel by local mountain railways and lifts, check the running periods:
In the French Alps, everything will close in the second half of September (except Aiguille du Midi gondola).
In the Swiss Alps, most gondolas etc. close around October 15th (except Zermatt area).
neckervd is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 09:56 PM.