Out and About is a popular feature in Group Travel Organiser magazine, where we share the places, trips and sights the editorial team have recently experienced, and believe will be of interest to others organising group travel.
We’ve just begun blogging reports on our activities to make them available to a wider audience online with more pictures and live links to further information and contacts of help to GTOs.
A wonderful reminder of the beautiful and relaxing environment around Lac Leman in Switzerland, was provided to GTO Editorial Director Peter Stonham when he joined a group organised by the Swiss Travel centre recently.
The trip demonstrated the ease of travel around the country by public transport, the quality of hotels and restaurants, some spellbinding scenery and an amazingly relaxed ambience.
The trip began by flying into Geneva Airport, where the group, led by Adrian Millan and colleagues from STC, joined a train to Lausanne. It’s a nice journey on the double-deck train alongside the lake to the fourth largest city in Switzerland.
After checking in at the hotel, the group walked down to the lakeside through lovely gardens on a beautiful sunny day to visit the Olympic Museum.
This celebrates the story of the modern Olympics, whose Committee was founded by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1894, headquartered in Lausanne, and which prepared for the first games in Athens in 1896.
The impressively designed museum was opened in 1993, and refurbished in 2012/13, and has some excellent memorabilia and stories from the last hundred years of Summer and Winter Olympic Games.
It is set in beautiful grounds on the lakeside, and after the visit Peter was able to enjoy views across the lake, prolific gardens and watching the iconic steamers dating back to the Belle Époque that still operate, as they provide vital transport links around the lake and across to the southern side in France.
He couldn’t resist hopping on board a return trip for commuters from Evian in France at the end of the afternoon, and enjoy what must be one of the nicest commutes available! In the evening the group enjoyed an excellent meal and local wines at the restaurant Eat Me in Lausanne old town.
Next morning, a walking tour of Lausanne provided insight to the rich history and architecture of the city, and its many museums and galleries, and impressive viewpoints from the upper part of this city established on three hills, and an important fortification in Roman times. This was followed by a delightful lunch cruise on the CGN La Suisse steamboat dating from 1910 where treats included watching the original steam engine at work powering the paddle steamer.
The ship dropped the group at the famous Chateu de Chillon, made famous by Lord Byron in his poem The Prisoner of Chillon, and full of historical intrigue about its occupants and those incarcerated there. There was even another chance to sample local wines at the Lavaux vineyards.
Next day took the group away from the lake by one of Switzerland’s many impressively engineered mountain railways, the train of the golden pass MOB Railway hauling them up to the village of Gstaad, famous for its winter sports, but also a peaceful summer retreat in verdant and wooded countryside.
A regular mountain post bus then took the group to Col-Du-Pillon, at the foot of the cable car that rises up in two stages by 10,528 thousand feet to Glacier 3000 – an all-year-round ice field. The group retreated to a ride in a ‘snowbus’ designed to cope with travel across the snow and ice, and fortunately well heated to cope with the icy conditions and snow and blizzard that was happening around the visit. It made the experience of the Peak Walk opened 5 years ago between the two mountain peaks a less tempting experience! It’s nonetheless an impressive piece of engineering that gives visitors a unique opportunity to take a walk at mountaintop level!
After the descent back to warmer levels, another local bus took the group to the village of Les Diablerets for tea at the Eurotel Hotel, which in winter is a popular base for skiers, but in the summer offers groups an excellent base for summer walking experiences and visits to nearby attractions. Then it was two linking train journeys back to Montreux for time to explore the lakeside in this town famed for its jazz and film festivals and dinner at the Jazz Café, which keeps the musical theme alive throughout the year.
On the final day of the trip, a bus transfer took the group from Montreux back towards Lausanne and Geneva, but not without an exceptional lunch stop amongst the traditional Unesco-protected Lavaux vineyard, where wines continued to flourish after their original establishment by the Romans on intricate terraces on the slopes of the lake.
There was a chance to sample a number of wines at the Domaine Croix Duplex in Grandvaux, a family run traditional producer of fine wines. Quite amazingly, there is a railway station just yards from the vineyard, which would make a visit eminently possible by train, although the group transferred by bus back to Lausanne, and then onto Geneva airport for flights home.
Peter’s overall experience was one of gentle but highly engaging activities in a beautiful pristine environment, presented at the highest quality and with friendly attention by all those providing the visitor experience. Switzerland is not the cheapest destination, but offers an exceptional type of tourism with everything well-organised and well-connected, which befits the country’s history as one of the first genuine tourism destinations in the world, dating back to the first travellers taking the European ‘grand tour’ in the early 19th century.
Peter would like to thank Adrian Millan and colleagues at the Swiss Travel Centre, for arranging such an enjoyable trip.