Sorry for being tardy on writing this travel blog from our Europe 2018 trip but its been a rough few years. We were involved in a motor vehicle accident when we visited out daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren in Barrie, Ontario on August 1, 2018 and I have been struggling to finish my travel blogs ever since! So here is one of the last from our trip to Europe in May 2018!
The Swiss Alps 2018! An Amazing Experience!
Today we would be venturing to visit the Swiss Alps! The morning was a major challenge. First off trying to get a taxi would be an issue and using the telephone in the apartment was not an option. I tried but could not understand the telephone system which I suspect was disabled because the owner did not want any foreign calls made! As I mentioned previously, we had not met Camille so we were pretty well on our own. This is a drawback when you use AirBnB! Its not at all like a hotel where the people on the front desk can give you assistance!
MK on the Bus To the Swiss Alps!
This area of Geneva is totally French speaking . You could be in Paris trying to telephone for a taxi, and our address was not familiar with those dispatchers we communicated with on our cell phone. So we had to get out on the street by 7:30 AM and try and flag a taxi down. This was quite difficult, as no one would stop. After about 15 minutes of trying to get a cab to stop on the busy Avenue De Champel extraordinary measures were necessary if we we going to get down to Gare Routiere in time to catch our tour to the Swiss Alps.
Hubby Photo Bombed By a Young Couple Being Married at Glacier 3000
I approached a few young ladies on their way into a college, luckily they understood English and I explained our problem, and they agreed to help us out. Their tactic was more aggressive than mine. They used my cell phone and called a cab for us and waited and then actually stepping bravely off the curb to flag the cab, and explain to the cab driver in French where we wanted to go. They were super sweet and we were ever so grateful!
Success, we got a cab down to the bus station and arrived shortly before 8:00 AM. However there was another problem! We had booked a Chamonix and Mont Blanc Day Tour trip from Geneva. Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Europe and Chamonix is an Alpine Town from where you could take a cable car to Anguille De Midi Peak. The first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France in 1924!
On Route to the Swiss Alps!
The problem was that the cable car was experiencing mechanical difficulties. The tour to Chamonix was cancelled! The tour company Viator was offering instead a tour to the Les Diablerets Ski Resort and a round trip cable car ride up to Glacier 3000. So who were we to argue, we had come this far, so take what was offered and it indeed seemed like a good alternative. It turned out to be a really great alternative and adventure!!
Swiss Country Side!
Because of the change of the tour we didn’t get away from Gare Routiere until 9:00 AM. Our tour guide was a Brit living in Switzerland and he was about roughly our age! Our route out of Geneva took us past the Headquarters of the World Health Organization. There is a very long list of International Organizations, UN Programs and Funds based in Geneva! Our route on E62 provided a great view of Lake Geneva and the mountains on the other side! Quite spectacular scenery!
Lake Geneva is one of the largest lakes in Europe, shared between Switzerland and France about 73 KM long, 14 KM wide at its maximum width. Boats operate on the lake and it is indeed a very beautiful lake surrounded by mountains! They gave us a pee break around 10:30 AM at a gas station and convenience store. It seemed like this was the spot to stop as the store was very busy with other tour buses and the lines to the cash for sandwiches and drinks was quite long. The bathrooms were really clean and it was a great stopover on the side of the road with the Swiss Mountains in the foreground! It was like a beckoning of the mountains as we got closer of just what we could expect when we got there! It was a really nice sunny morning at 22 C and we were back on the bus by 11:00 AM. Our tour guide gave us some perspectives on living in Switzerland.
Seeing the Swiss Alps on the way to Glacier 3000!
Switzerland is made up 26 Cantons. It seems that the Cantons have a great degree of autonomy, more so than even our Provinces here in Canada. So its a very decentralized form of Government. Switzerland has only one public holiday which is August 1st. The Cantons set all the rest of the holidays and they vary by Canton. Our guide made a good point and asked if anyone could remember who the President of Switzerland was? The President is not the Head of State, the entire Federal Council (7 members) collectively is the Head of State, and the Presidency rotates annually – Very Swiss!!!
On the Winding Road up to the Swiss Alps!
Our route took us up the mountains, very narrow roads with spectacular scenery. Lots of homes up in the winding mountains. Our tour guide told us that governments were offering assistance to home owners to sell out and move to urban centres where there were more amenities. It is very difficult to make a living in the mountains based on agriculture now! As well the governments were having great struggles in keeping the mountain passes and roads open in the winter when the snow makes it almost impassable. Some who live there have been stranded for long periods of time when the snow covers the mountains and the roads. Something like we are facing here in rural Newfoundland and Labrador with the Government trying to resettle people from small communities which require Government services!
Heidi and The Grandfather Country Swiss Alps!
We arrived at Col-Du-Pillon, Glacier 3000 at around 12:30 PM. From here we would take two different cable cars to the top of SCEX Rouge, but first we had to add some layers of clothing. It was 20C in Geneva and we were wearing shorts when we left. At the top of SCEX Rouge it was 0C. We were prepared with clothing in my backpack to dress appropriately for the cold! Col-Du-Pillon had lots of change rooms, so no problem to change into more suitable and warm clothes. We emerged ready to take on the mountain. Around 1:00PM we boarded the first cable car from Col-Du-Pillon to Tete Aux Chamois, the intermediate slope. Quickly we boarded the next cable car up to the top of SCEX Rouge, elevation 3000 meters, almost 10,000 feet, or 2 miles up!
It was an interesting sensation, climbing this high so quickly, somewhat like a fast elevator, but the views of Col-Du-Pillon receding and becoming smaller as we looked back. My ears started to pop! It was an awesome experience! At the top of SCEX Rouge in mere minutes, it was exhilarating! Summit Station was designed by Architect Mario Botta and it is spectacular! As soon as you get there, you can see an astounding number (24) of snow capped 4000 meter giants of mountains such as Jungfrau, Matterhorn and Mont Blanc in the distance. Wow and Wow!! Surrounded by snow capped peaks, exactly as we had always envisaged it would be like!
On the Lift up to the First Summit of Glacier 3000!
At the summit you could engage in a number of activities. First off we hopped a ski lift down to the Glacier for an adventure. It was a 30 minute walk on the Glacier with amazing more views. It was actually quite warm almost hot. It was enough to take our jackets and fleece off. Brilliant sunshine at 10,000 feet. We should have taken sunscreen. I got a little red faced from the reflection of the sun hitting the glacier snow! The air was definitely thinner at this altitude and breathing was difficult. We enjoyed the wonderful walk and watched the kids slide down on anything they could find down the slippery slopes of the Glacier. Fortunately there were a few nicely situated benches for a break to take in all the views and the action of the young ones! We took our time and walked back to the ski lift and up to the top of the mountain. It was time for lunch and after a rigorous walk we were hungry!
Arriving at Glacier 3000!
Restaurant Botta in the main building on SCEXRouge offers food on three different floors. We decided to splurge and went for the top floor with panoramic views of the surrounding mountain peaks. We had a great table at the outside edge, fantastic views of all mountain sides for the entire lunch. Hubby as usual ordered Botta’s Raclette Burger with rosti fries. I was more adventuresome and ordered the Zurich Rosti (sliced veal and mushrooms). The burger had added bacon, raclette cheese and onion confits. Both the veal and the beef were of Swiss origin. I had a great glass of Chardonnay. Hubby ordered Heineken Draft. There may have been a Swiss beer available, but not even the servers would recommend one! The food was excellent and the service too. It was a very enjoyable meal at the top of the Swiss Alps.
Hubby and I on the Glacier 3000! We walked the whole Glacier !
After lunch we tackled the Peak Walk, which is a pedestrian suspension bridge linking SCEXRouge with another peak. The bridge is 107 meters long, and a great number of steps are required to get from the main building up to the stepping off point at ScexRouge Peak. It was a challenge but we were determined to do it. It was a surreal experience at 3000 meters plus. We had never been this high above sea level except in an airplane! It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. I cannot say I enjoyed anything more than our visit to Monserrat in Spain!
Heading Back up From the Glacier!
After walking on glaciers, and scaling peaks we took a break until it was time to descend the mountain. After that a brief trip to the gift store. Hubby bought our grandson who loves planes, a model airplane kit of a lovely Swiss plane. Shortly we were descending the mountain in the first cable car back and the eerie feeling that the ground was coming to meet you was amazing! The cable car moves that fast!
Hubby and I on the Suspended Bridge Walking Back From the Edge!
We had time on the ground to change back to summer attire, and started our return trip to Geneva. It was still a beautiful afternoon, sunny, and 22C at Col-Du-Pillon. The scenery was just as spectacular on our return journey as on the way up! What we did not see on the way up to the Swiss Alps was the beautiful city of Montreux. Located on the north east shore of Lake Geneva, with a population of approximately 27,000 people. Montreux has a very nice climate in the middle of Europe with an average January high of 4.5C, with July topping out at 24C. Our bus tour leader informed us of a 90 minute stop here to do whatever we wished. Just be back to the bus on time!
It was a beautiful Friday evening, 25C and sunny with a light breeze off Lake Geneva. We walked down to the lakeside and enjoyed the beautiful promenade lined with flowers, sculptures and Mediterranean palm trees. Just offshore was a medieval island castle, Chateau De Chillon. The famous Montreux Jazz Festival takes place here every June/July! Of course the rock band Queen has a very strong connection with Montreux. Queen recorded many of their albums at Montreux Mountain Studios. There is an attraction there called Queen: The Studio Experience. There is also a statue of Freddy Mercury there on the promenade which was surrounded by flowers and people. All very interesting! The acclaimed movie Bohemian Rhapsody was based on Freddy Mercury’s life and was released in 2018!
Montreux and the Queen Studio Experience!
Back on the bus by 6:00 PM to Geneva. Some did not come back in time and were left behind. While the bus driver and tour guide waited to no avail, sadly we left them behind! There was lots of traffic on a Friday evening. We arrived back at Geneva Bus Station by 7:15 PM. and we caught a cab back to the apartment! After refreshing up around 8:00 PM we went looking for a restaurant. Everything was closed in this residential area by 8:00 PM. We couldn’t believe it that after such a long day, now there was nowhere to grab a bite to eat. There was a small convenience store that was still open but was getting ready to close, but he let us in and he was very glad to sell us his left over Lasagna, french bread and wine. He was very happy and so were we! So all was not lost and we walked back happily to the apartment. We heated up the Lasagna in the microwave oven, and with the bread and wine we were ok. It was still very nice on the patio for another hour so we enjoyed a peaceful hour looking over at the magnificent mountains. It was a great evening!
Freddy Mercury Statue and Memorabilia Montreux!
Saturday morning in Geneva and the weather was still wonderful. We had to be out of the apartment by 11:00 AM, so we had a bit of a sleep in until 9:30 AM. It was just enough time to pack our suitcases again and enjoy a coffee and tea on the patio along with a few snacks. We had arranged with a cabbie who drove us to our apartment last evening to pick us up at 11:00 AM outside the door. No chasing down cabs this day!
More Montreux Views!
We were booked on an EasyJet flight to Lisbon Saturday afternoon. The cabbie came through for us and was at the front door by 11:00 AM punctual. He delivered us to Geneva Airport by noon and this was fine, as our flight was scheduled for a 3:00 PM departure. I must say my getting through their Customs was a bit of a problem. I didn’t realize that I had too many toiletries in my suitcase. They tried to get me to dump some of them (which had not been a problem at any other airport we had travelled) and those they wanted me to dump I just couldn’t without a fight. After the line was being held up so long, they gave me a lecture and told me to take it all and put in my suitcase. I think they wanted to make an example of the foolish English lady!
On the Way Back to Geneva!
This particular Saturday was the day of Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s wedding. Courtesy of our Priority Pass Lounge Membership, we watched the entire proceedings on the big screen televisions with complimentary food and drinks. We couldn’t think of a better situation to wait for our flight! Our flight to Lisbon was a little late, but an uneventful hop from Switzerland over to Portugal. The flight was packed and appeared to be Portuguese heading home for the weekend.
Geneva! We Must Say Goodbye!
We arrived in Lisbon around 6:00 PM and it was a very nice evening and very warm! It always amazes me at airports in Portugal that nobody checks you on arrival! No customs, no checks, off the plane and direct to the car park. Our cab delivered us to the Hotel Fenix Lisboa no problem. We checked in and amazingly were assigned the same room as on our previous stay a year earlier! We were definitely on a roll! It was a really nice big room, a mini suite, with a nice patio overlooking the beautiful park to sit out on and enjoy the evening air! Our trip to Portugal would be another wonderful experience!
Flying Over the Swiss Alps on our Way to Lisbon, Portugal!