Switzerland – home to incredible cuisine, stunning landscapes, a unique fusion of cultures and an impressive wine scene.
I was wondering why I haven’t been already. Maybe it was the high prices putting me off; as there is no getting away from it, Switzerland is by no means a cheap destination. What the Swiss do know, however, is how to really spoil their guests. Their hospitality was second to none, always charming, professional, and friendly without being intrusive.
The reality of Switzerland puts postcard photographs to shame; surpassing the advertising images of snow topped mountains and skies. Here the mountain panoramas, lakes and gorges, pine forests and charming gingerbread chalets take your breath away.
Rail travel a joy
Flying in from Heathrow to Zurich by Swiss Air I continued south by a smooth quiet and scenic rail journey to Locarno.
Rail travel is a joy here. The transportation system is so convenient, an efficient network of boats, trains, and funiculars. A variety of unlimited travel passes (from £145) giving free museum admission and 50% reduction on most mountain railway.
I stayed in Ascona, reputed to be the country’s sunniest city situated on Lake Maggiore in the Italian language area of Ticino. In the early 20th century it became a fashionable health resort attracting some of Europe’s leading thinkers, artists and writers. Here they boast they have Swiss quality and the Italian lifestyle
The Hotel Ascoville is all I would have now come to expect from a Swiss Hotel, bright perfectly well appointed rooms with such attention to detail, and I wanted for nothing.
Accompanied by a fabulous aroma of verbena while breakfasting outside on their manicured garden I was joined by a cheeky sparrow, tilting its head as if asking for permission to join me or to engage in conversation.
If I was looking for ‘la dolce vita’, it is waiting for me here. Wandering along the lakeside promenade under the palm trees, I threaded my way through a network of winding alleyways perusing boutiques and small art galleries.
After a short walk to the jetty a boat took me across the lake to the beautiful botanical park on the Isloe di Brissago. This small island, ten-minute stroll end to end, beautifully showcased its luxuriant subtropical flora from around the world.
Arrivederci and guten Tag, my next destination was Lake Thun (Thunersee) taking the 60km narrow gauge railway of the Centovalli (Valley of a hundred valleys). The train winds through the forests and across ravines. The scenery is spectacular; the tilting carriages seemed to cling to the edge with a jaw-dropping vista into the valleys below.
After arriving safely in the city of Thun, which is set astride the fast flowing River Aare, I could see the icy giants of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains looming in the distance. While climbing to the top of a fairy tale medieval castle turret stories of princesses with long plaited hair waiting to be rescued came to mind.
Further along the lake shore I took a funicular then a cable car ride up to the village of Beatenberg-Neiderhorn. Here too are fine panoramic views of the lakes below. I took a gentle hike from the top and then down the mountain on a ‘trotti’ bike – a scooter-like bike with fat tyres and no seat. Then I experienced the childish joy of travelling downwards on the long winding road, taking in the splendid scenery to the village below. It proved an exhilarating experience even if I did use my brakes the whole time!
Following all the activity I had earned my wellness spa break and some relaxation at the Hotel Beatus in Merligen am Thunersee.
This hotel is modern, stylish and perfectly located to take advantage of the surrounding grand views and natural beauty. Facilities include a heated salt-water outdoor pool, indoor pool and above all, fine cuisine.
All areas are fully accessible and there is the benefit of excellent public transport links to the area. The hotel has its own park, harbour, rose garden and boat-landing jetty where you can take a lake tour on a vintage steamship.
I felt thoroughly spoilt in this luxurious serene atmosphere. Even on the last evening I was treated to a fabulous sunset display across the lake. An appropriately spectacular finale to a memorable week.
For further information
For more information on Switzerland visit www.MySwitzerland.com or call our Switzerland Travel Centre on the International freephone 00800 100 200 30 or e-mail, for information firstname.lastname@example.org; for packages, trains and air tickets email@example.com.
Inghams is offering 7 nights in Switzerland with 3 nights half board at the 4* Hotel Ascovilla, Ascona, and 4 nights half board at the 5* Hotel Beatus Merligen, Lake Thun, from £1,538 per person departing 16th September 2015. Price includes return flights from London Gatwick to Zurich and resort transfers. For more information visit www.inghams.co.uk or call 01483 79 11 11 Opening hours: Monday-Friday 9am–6pm & Saturday 9am-5.30pm.