When I was first invited out to Switzerland, I didn’t know what to expect. Like a lot of people I knew there were mountains and I was told how beautiful Lake Geneva was, but I was also very aware at how expensive it was.
So, I was a little hesitant about the financial side of my trip, but I thought that try it out and see how far my very tight budget could get me in one of those most expensive places in the world.
I booked my flights through Easy Jet and luckily, flights in and out of Geneva Airport only cost £52. I travel lightly so I took bag big enough to fit a week’s worth of clothes in, but small enough to pass as hand luggage (I’m now a pro at this).
My journey starts in the travel shop where I had my money changed from UK Sterling to Swiss Francs. And the realisation kicked in when I saw how little I was getting for my money with the exchange rate being so low. It wouldn’t be so bad if I was visiting a ‘cheaper’ country.
Come April and it’s time for me to jet off to the land of everything Swiss. I swiftly get on board and land ready and raring to see the sights.
I was staying with friends in Vevey which is around 50 miles East of Geneva. First obstacle… where’s the nearest train station? Thankfully, there is a train station at the Airport which is very easy to find with sign posts dotted around the airport and a ticket can easily be purchased at the ticket desk or the ticket machine which is translated in English. My train fare cost Fr30 and although it was expensive, once on the train I soon forgot about expenses of my fare when seeing the quaint houses spread over the green fresh fields surrounded by bright flowers which set a springtime atmosphere. The bright blue sky was stretching over Lake Geneva which the train line wraps around. The sun was shining beautifully on the water and the mountains reflected through the sun beams and onto the lake… ah bliss.
Day 1 and it was the beginning of my adventures in the land of cheese and chocolate. We took a long walk along the lake to Montreux and saw a few friendly faces along the way. A famous English comedian we all know and love as Charlie Chaplin lived in Vevey for over 25ys and in his honour, the Swiss have built a statue.
If you continue walking along the lake, you’ll go through a few towns which all have their own delights for you to admire. Le Tour-de-Peilz has a beautiful marina and a games museum and Clarens is the picturesque suburb of Montreux which not only boasts a great view of the famous town, but the flowery surroundings help you drift away.
Montreux is famous for its Jazz Festival which has run for 43 years this July. Many infamous singers, musicians and bands have performed at the festival. These include Etta James, Santana, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Miles Davis just to name a few. Jazz lovers from all over the word flock to Montreux to get a taste of the two week long festival.
Past the market stalls and you’ll find Mr Freddie Mercury standing strong on the lake side. Take a left into the town centre and as long as you can afford it, you’ll enjoy the designer boutiques and restaurants. In terms of eating out on a budget, Montruex isn’t the cheapest. We did however find a bar called Jazz Cafe which was very reasonably priced at Fr25 for two drinks and two meals. If you keep walking though the town centre, you’ll find lots of cafes which charge around Fr3.30 for a coffee and oh my, it is great coffee!
If you’re too tired to walk the 4miles back to Vevey (as I was) there is a train station in the middle of the town where you can buy a ticket for only Fr3.50.
We woke up early on day 2 and were greeted by bright morning sunshine, clear blue skies and the twitter of birds outside. After breakfast, we set off into the hills above Vevey which holds one of Switzerland’s best kept secrets… the vineyards.
These vineyards cover miles of glorious countryside and the views were breathtaking. The sun was shining and we were surrounded by nature’s fresh flowers, rare bids, insects and lizards and not to mention the grapes beginning to ripen. There were waterfalls which were all over the hill tops, and the fresh mountain spring water flowed through the rockery and down into the lake. If you wish to visit the vineyards, don’t worry about getting lost as there are sign posts to direct you to the each town. We made our own lunch to save pennies and sat on the wall of an old French winery and breathed in the fresh hill top air and enjoyed the view of the lake which glistened with sunlight.
We headed towards a tiny village called Rivaz, set on top of hills and not too far from the lake, this village was practically deserted but there were many wine shops. So if you’re a fan of a few fermented grape’s, then Rivaz should definitely be on your ‘to do’ list.
There is a train station in almost every village in Switzerland and it costs Fr3.60 to get back to Vevey from Rivaz, but look past the station and you’ll find a small pebbled beach so relax after the 4mile walk and dip your feet into the water.
We headed back to Vevey and popped out for a few drinks which thankfully were reasonably priced.
We started in a small sports bar called Tiffanys Bar where two drinks came to Fr10.00. It was certainly a place for the locals but the staff were friendly and served us right away.
We then headed further into the centre and found a jazz bar called The Twin – Blues Music Café Bar which has live music playing nightly and was also well priced.
If live blues music and sports bars aren’t your idea of a good night out, there are classier bars in the hotels which are open to the public. Be prepared to pay for it because the prices can easily damage your wallet!
On the third day, we went on a bike ride to Villenuve which is 3miles south of Montreux. We followed the lake past Montreux and were there before we knew it.
Just past Montreux, we came to Territet which was stunning. The bright flowers surrounded the front of the lake and the mountains opposite reflected onto the water. I fell in love with this part of the lake as I could see Montreux, Vevey and Villenuve which all stand proudly. Ahead of us, we could see what looked like a castle but as we arrived there, we realised it was an old château called Château de Chillion which cost Fr15.00 to look around. Just to the right of this grand building, is a small grass area where you can have a BBQ, go fishing, or as we did, relax on the grass and watch the swans play in the water.
After about 10minutes of being back on the bikes, we arrived in Villenuve and had a look around the town. The main high street was very small but certainly reflected ‘old France’. It’s lined with bakeries, restaurants and a handful of wine bars.
On the lake side, there are children’s parks, a marina and if you fancy a glass of the local wine, there are restaurants which have a wide selection of food and drink.
On the last day of our outings, we headed to the medieval city of Lausanne which cost Fr14.00 for a return ticket and takes around 15mins on the train. On arriving in the popular city we headed down to the lake front where promoters were setting up for the ‘Tour de Romandie’ race. But before embarking on watching three hours of bikes whizzing past, we enjoyed the sights of Lausanne.
500 ft above Lake Geneva stands the old Cathedral – Cathédrale Notre-Dame which hosts a magnificent view of the city. Construction on the Cathedral began in 1175 and was built in honour of The Virgin Mary and is still classed as Switzerland’s Finest Gothic Building.
As If the view wasn’t enough to give you shivers, going inside the cathedral simply deserves a ‘WOW’! It has bright stained glass windows, high stone pillars and an amazing painted ceiling. There are plaques and statues placed delicately inside which honour Pope Gregory X, Knights and other religious figures that had graced its isles.
If designer shops are your idea of perfect, then you’ll LOVE Lausanne. Its boutiques sell Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci and many more designer wear, jewellery, perfume and accessories.
After gazing at the sheer greatness of Lausanne, it was bike time and we headed down town to watch the pro’s do their thing. The streets were laced with cycling fans all hoping to get a glimpse of their favourite cyclist. The energy of the fans and riders was electrifying.
After three hours of shouting ‘ALLEZ ALLEZ!’ at the top of our voices and stamping our feet on the pavement, it was time to head back to Vevey for dinner.
We found a pizza house called Pizza Taxi on the lake front in Vevey which was very decently priced at Fr32.00 for a 16inch pizza and three drinks. Like most restaurants in Vevey, there was decking outside which over looks the lake.
We all know that Switzerland is famous for its cheese, chocolate, mountains, festivals and wealth, but take time out and see something new at every angle along the lake and you won’t need a big budget.
If you’re willing to throw away the map and explore what isn’t in the holiday brochure then you’ll love what you can find. Forget skiing in Switzerland or visiting the major cities… find the hidden treasures like the secret beaches, the fresh local wines and panoramic views and you will be happy to climb every mountain for the next amazement.
I took Fr200 with me and came back with 5cent but every penny spent was worth it because I saw things I never thought id see and I took the exploration route and had the time of my life.
Currency: Swiss Franc
Auberge de Rivaz offers rooms at 60euros a night with breakfast included and is opposite Rivaz train station.
If you don’t mind sharing your room then the Rivera Lodge in Vevey has dorms available for just Fr27.00 – Fr33.00 per night.
You can hire a bike from the train station at Fr20.00 for the day which includes bike insurance.
Lausanne Guide – http://www.sacred-destinations.com/switzerland/lausanne-cathedral.htm
Copyright © 2009 Robyn E. Mayo