THIRDHOME member Barbara Malarski just returned from a majestic Rain Journey through Switzerland. Read below for her account of this amazing locomotive experience.
The Hills are alive with the sound of … cow bells in the unsurpassed pastoral beauty of the Swiss countryside. The crinkle of Swiss chocolates, as they unravel from a gold wrapper, pierces through the otherwise silent sound of the soft snow landing on Jungfraujoch – The Top of Europe. Jungfraujoch, the highest altitude railway station in the world, is located at 3454 meters above sea level. Sparkling snow and ice stretches from the peopled viewing tower to beyond. The gentle rumble of steel train tracks aboard the famous Glacier Express accompanies a vision of blurred glaciers, ancient forests, and rushing mountain streams.
Jill Chism and I had just completed the Mont Blanc walking trail (an 8-day version of the walk through France, Switzerland and Italy across a number of challenging passes), so we were keen travel at a more restful pace. And rest we did as we looked out the window at the picture perfect landscape by train. Our Curated Swiss Rail Trip exceeded our expectations, especially the picturesque landscapes of ancient and famous vineyards traced back to the 11th century, when Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries controlled the area.
Our first stop was in the town of Montreux, where our hotel was a 5 minute walk to Lake Geneva. We were in awe of Montreux’s long flowered promenade that borders the lake’s edge. Being “walkers” we loved the 5 kilometer walk to Chillon Castle with numerous other significant landmarks along the way, including the magnificent Fairmount Le Montreux Palace dating to the Belle Époque (1871-1914). On from the castle is the charming town of Vielle-Ville, which simply means ‘old town’. If you are an enthusiastic walker, once back in Montreux, you can walk the promenade in the opposite direction to Vevey, another charming historical town nearby. Coming from the Tropics in Australia, we loved the biodiversity of pines, cypresses and palm trees that reflected a more Mediterranean feel. It was very relaxing and made us feel at home.
Vevey, 15 minutes by local bus, if you don’t want to walk, was hosting its biennial Arts Festival. The standard of the Arts festival ‘Images’ was very high, enlivened by the inventive staging of its exhibits. Works of both established and emerging photographers were displayed in an astonishing variety of unconventional venues and locations, showcasing both the beauty of the surrounding natural environment as well as the town’s historical buildings. Aside from the ‘Images’ exhibition, Jill was especially intrigued by the collection of Picasso prints (the second biggest collection in Europe) at Musee Jenisch in Vevey. And there was no one else there looking at over 150 original prints!
Our timely arrival enabled us to experience Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Memorial. Montreux was alive with people and music, celebrating the time the band Queen spent writing music from an apartment they owned in the area. Staying at Montreux was a highlight for us, especially in the month of September with so many events in combination with its natural beauty, culture and history. It was truly magical to be there.
Next we were on to Lucerne in Central Switzerland. The town straddles the Ruess River with its main feature being the famous Chapel Bridge, a 66 foot long wooden bridge, and the oldest covered bridge in Europe. We spent hours walking through the old town and ended up at the Culture and Convention Center, and ultra-modern building sitting on the lake. We were blessed to experience a free concert inside The Convention Centre, in what is recognized as one of the world leading concert halls.
Leaving Switzerland, we had the opportunity to stay in THIRDHOME‘s unique 19 century mansion, a traditional “Mansard House”, located in the small village of Soisy Sur Seine, France. With Paris on our doorstep, 20 miles away, we mostly retreated into the countryside with long walks along the Seine into either Ris D’Orangis or the local village for our morning croissants. Pure Heaven! It was serenity on the Seine. This was a remarkable home and one which Jill and I felt privileged to have the opportunity of staying in, hosted through THIRDHOME and Liz Bates.
Barbara is a longtime THIRDHOME member and frequent traveler with a second luxury home in Port Douglas, Australia.