I would never be caught dead in an airport again if all train travel was as efficient as Switzerland’s. It was a thing of beauty to just whip out my travel pass (albeit a first-class one, which I highly recommend) and head over to our reserved seats in the dining car. Between nibbles of a very tasty nasi-goreng, Indonesian fried rice, my face was glued to the window, oohing and ahhing over the gorgeous countryside, which looked like it had been gilded in gold, but was actually just rape fields in full bloom.
Enroute I had to forget all the German I learned in Zurich (which consisted of Auf Wiedersehen and Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, a traditional Swiss dish made with veal, mushrooms and noodles in cream sauce) and practice my equally feeb French, since French is Lausanne’s language of choice.
Steeper hills than San Francisco?
Getting to Vieille Ville, Lausanne’s medieval upper town, a bevy of cobbled lanes lined with charming shops and amazing gothic architecture, can be done the hard way–by walking–since the town is situated on three very steep hills, or you can wimp out like we did and take the funicular to the top. Don’t miss the 13th century Cathédrale Notre Dame adorned by a huge rose windo made out of 105 panes of stained glass.
When we arrived at the main thoroughfare, we were thrilled with our reception. It seemed as if the whole town had graciously turned out to welcome us, dressed in full costume. Actually, they were celebrating “Fete du Soleil”(carnival of the sun) which must have worked since it was our first sun-sighting in days.
We continued downhill to Le Flon, Lausanne’s version of Zurich-West. Once filled with run-down warehouses, Le Flon has been totally refurbished and is now headquarters for the trendiest restaurants, bars and living quarters.We popped in for a drink at Les Arches, a new uber-cool, hangout designed by Parisian wunderkind, Pierre Winthrop. Located completely outside, under the arches of a historical city bridge, the bar was packed even though it was early. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that it’s one of the few places people can still have a cigarette with their drink since only two weeks before Switzerland banned smoking in all public places.
Luxury stay at Ouchy (pronounced ooh-she)
Our home for the next few days was the elegant 4-star Angleterre & Residence, a beautifully landscaped cluster of six historic villas and a lounge-worthy swimming pool, plunked right next door to their glamorous partner hotel, Beau-Rivage. You couldn’t ask for a more peachy-perfect view. My room overlooked dazzling Lake Geneva ( Western Europe’s largest lake) framed by the majestic, snow-tipped French Alps.
Even if you’re not a sports lover, you will still enjoy a visit to the awe-inspiring Olympic Museum, just a block down the beach. Save time to ramble through the Olympic Park gardens that are filled with a fantastic array of sports related artworks.
If you haven’t received any invites from wealthy locals to hop aboard their sailboat, then why not try a relaxing eco-friendly solar boat ride on the “Aquarel” with the very capable Capt.Olivier Hanggeli, at the helm.
Tip: Before boarding the boat, stop in at the marina cafe for a slice of delish homemade tarte tatin, delicately sweetened with local honey.
*For more help in planning your trip go to Lake Geneva