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 before? Maybe it was the expectation of high prices putting me off? There is no getting away from it, Switzerland is not a cheap destination, but is priceless in what it offers. The Swiss know exactly how to spoil their guests. I found the hospitality second to none, always charming, professional, and friendly without being intrusive.
The reality of Switzerland puts postcard photographs to shame; far surpassing the advertising-images of snow topped mountains and skies. The mountain panoramas, lakes and gorges, pine forests and charming gingerbread chalets take your breath away.
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) including free museum admission and 50% reduction on most mountain railways.
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 the ideal combination of Swiss quality of service and an Italian lifestyle
I stayed at the Hotel Ascoville, which is all I would expect from a Swiss Hotel, bright, excellently appointed rooms with complete attention to detail, I wanted for nothing. Accompanied by a fabulous aroma of verbena I breakfasted outside on their manicured garden. A cheeky sparrow joined me, 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. I wander along the lakeside promenade under palm trees, threading my way through a network of winding alleyways discovering boutiques and small art gallerie along the way. After a short walk to the jetty a boat takes me across the lake to the beautiful botanical park on the Isloe di Brissago. This small island, ten-minute stroll end to end, beautifully show casing 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.
I arrive safely in the city of Thun, which is set astride the fast flowing River Aare. The icy giants of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains loom in the distance. I climb to the top of fairy tale medieval castle turret and stories of princesses with long plaited hair waiting to be rescued came to mind.
Further along the lakeshore 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 look a gentle hike from the top and then with a distinct change of pace, I return down the mountain on a ‘trotti’ bike – a scooter like bike with fat tyres and no seat. I experience the childish joy of a 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 felt I had earned my wellness spa break. I relaxed 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.
The last evening treated me to a fabulous sunset display across the lake. An appropriately spectacular finale to what had been a truly memorable week. Why had it taken so long for me to experience this wonderful place? – I still don’t know, but I know that I will be going back, soon.
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 http://www.inghams.co.uk