My husband and I, both 56 years old, spent a glorious 14 days in Switzerland. My mother is from Switzerland; she moved to the United States when she was 18 years old. My father’s parents are also Swiss but my dad was born in the United States. I used to visit Switzerland with my mother when I was a child but we never traveled much within Switzerland while we were there. We stayed with relatives who only spoke French so communicating with them was a problem for me. The last time I visited was forty years ago and my husband has never been to Europe. We have discussed this trip for the past twenty years and finally decided there are no guarantees that we will be here tomorrow so we bit the bullet and did it! I am so glad we did! Unfortunately, we now have no desire to go anywhere else! I did not realize how much I would be impacted to be back in my Mom’s homeland. It was a very emotional trip for me!
One thing we did that other grandparents might enjoy doing is we brought with us a little stuffed animal that belongs to our granddaughters. He is a dog named Max. Max could fit in my purse or pocket and we took pictures of him everywhere and then put together a photo album of Max for the three girls when we got home. They enjoyed it very much, as did we!
We flew into Zurich on September 16th and found the Salt store to get our phone plan all settled. That was very easy. The trains are right there in the airport so since we had the Swiss Travel Pass we jumped on the next train to Geneva. We purchased 1st class tickets and never regretted it. The extra Swiss Francs were well worth it. There were quite a few times when we were the only ones in first class. We traveled with one backpack each so it was really nice to just set our bags on the seat next to us and not feel like we were taking someone’s seat. We only walked through a second class carriage once and it was filled to the brim with school children. We barely made our way down the aisle because their belongings were strewn everywhere. We laughed and were again very happy to go sit in our relaxing first class seats. We met quite a few people during our journey and enjoyed our visits with them.
I had done an extensive amount of research before our trip (I mentioned that we have talked about this trip for twenty years). I discovered that there was a food festival in Geneva that evening. We found our way to the flower clock, Lac Leman and the Jet d’Eau and started exploring Old Town. This was my husband’s first taste of Switzerland and he loved it. We walked and walked and walked some more. We had a map and still struggled trying to find the food festival. Streets in Switzerland are not parallel to each other. We finally found the food festival and had a wonderful time! I thought we would be doing really well to force ourselves to stay up to 8:00 and we wound up not going to bed until 10:00.
The next day, we headed to Lausanne. We got a bit of a late start as we slept in later than expected. That never happens at home! We had decided beforehand that we would get done what we could get done and not rush ourselves! We figured out where the luggage storage was in the Lausanne station and locked up our bags. We had a nice breakfast at a pastry shop next to the train station. We caught a regional train to Ouchy and explored Ouchy a little bit before we took a boat to Evian-les-Bains, France. What a beautiful ride! We had a nice leisurely walk along the lakefront and explored the town. Unfortunately, most of the stores were closed. I believe because it was Sunday. We arrived back in Ouchy around 5:00. We were going to explore the Olympic Museum a bit but it began to rain and it was going to be a 15 minute walk so we decided we couldn’t do the museum justice. The Olympic Museum is something we need to do on our next trip! We heard really good things about it from other tourists. We took the train back to the Lausanne station, retrieved our bags and attempted to find our first Airbnb.
We discovered a couple of things on our trip: 1) it takes a little bit of time to figure out the transportation system in each town and 2) make sure your lodging is near the train station when you do not have a car. Everyone was very helpful though! We sometimes struggled to figure out where to pick up the right bus but we eventually got to where we were going. We took backpacks; next time I would take a small suitcase with wheels: small enough to fit in the overhead on a plane but much easier on my back. These were minor inconveniences though. How bad can life be? We were in Switzerland! Nothing to get upset over! We ventured back out that evening and ate at the Bleu Lezard. The food and service were both exceptional!
The next day, we took the regional train to Vevey before we took a boat to Chateau Chillon. We loved exploring the town of Vevey – so picturesque! We had a beautiful boat ride and once again were very happy we had our first class Swiss Travel Pass. We sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful views! The Castle was awesome! We had so much fun exploring all the rooms in the castle! We spent around 3 hours there. We had to wait 45 minutes for the boat back so we found a vendor and I had a little bottle of white and my husband had a little bottle of red wine and we sat by the lakefront enjoying our wine and the view!
We took the boat back and got off at Vevey. We took a train to Puidoux-Chexbres to enjoy the vineyards. The view was gorgeous. Unfortunately, it was Monday, September 18th and I believe they were observing a holiday. All of the vineyards were closed! Just a minor hiccup as we found an outdoor restaurant that was closing soon but he graciously served us each a glass of wine and brought us some wonderful crunchy breadsticks. So nice of him, since we had not ordered food!
We took the train back down to Vevey and decided to grab a quick bite at the restaurant next to the train station. We ordered our food when my husband got up and bolted out of the restaurant. He has a black cell phone and set it down on the black table by our seats on the train. He had left it on the train! I was trying to figure out what our next steps were going to be when he ran back in – phone in hand! Fortunately, the train was still there! We were very careful from that point on to look behind us every time we left somewhere.
Before we left home, we were checking the weather forecast and it looked like the first week of our trip was going to be rainy. We were not thrilled about that but decided it wasn’t going to affect the joy of this trip. As it turned out, it rained a little bit on the mornings of Sunday and Monday and again a little bit those two evenings. We didn’t have to change our plans at all. After that, we had 12 days of sunshine and gorgeous moerate weather!
Tuesday, we were headed to Lucens, Switzerland. Lucens is a small village that is my mom’s hometown. I was very nervous this morning as we were visiting two cousins and an aunt of mine that I haven’t seen or talked to in 40 years! I also was extremely nervous about having to rely on my limited French to speak with these people. We got on the train to Lucens and arrived in Vevey, where they promptly took us off the train and put us on a bus. We realized that they were working on the train tracks so this was a detour. The bus took us to Moudon. We were to arrive in Lucens at 11:00. Instead, we arrived in Moudon at 11:00 and the train to Lucens wasn’t leaving until noon meaning we were not going to arrive until 12:10 or so.
I called my relatives to notify them of our late arrival. One of their friends answered the phone and between my French and her English she understood we would be late. She told me they would meet us at the train station. We arrived in Lucens and they were walking down the sidewalk towards us and 40 years melted away! I recognized them instantly and then they both started talking fluent English! All that worrying for nothing! They took us for a car ride through town and starting pointing out familiar family spots to us. It was wonderful. I teared up a few times as my mother is now 85 and cannot travel back to Switzerland. I felt her presence with us. They took us to their home, which used to be my grandparent’s home. They are located right at the base of the Chateau de Lucens. Beautiful! They fed us well and after three bottles of wine, we were still having a wonderful time.
Our destination that evening was Fribourg so we were deciding what train we were going to take when they said they were driving us there! By them driving us there, my husband got to see so much he wouldn’t have seen by train. We stopped at Lac de Neuchatel and enjoyed the views by the lake. They took us through Avenches, with their wonderful Roman amphitheatre. We walked around Morat, and thoroughly enjoyed this gorgeous town and had a drink at a beautiful restaurant. We arrived in Fribourg and our wonderful hostess invited my family in for a drink and snacks. How incredibly sweet! My family left soon afterwards with a promise from us that next trip we would stay a few evenings with them. No problem!!! That is an easy promise to keep. You hear so often about the Swiss being incredibly friendly and helpful. Do I have a story for you!
We did laundry this particular evening and I mistakenly chose the long cycle on the washing machine. It was around 11:00 and our hostess told us to go to bed; she would take care of it. I told her there was no way she was doing laundry for me. She insisted she was just going to hang it up when the washer stopped. The next morning I immediately went to the laundry room to fold our clothes and there they were: all dry and folded in a neat pile. She then fed us breakfast and drove us to the train station. Superior hospitality!