I told Floyd in September of 2018 that I really wanted a Switzerland redo & by the end of the month, the flight was booked. We’d be on our way in January, in the dead of winter… Super exciting for me, but Floyd didn’t necessarily want to go someplace cold in January. He didn’t want to leave the North Carolina cold for another cold destination, & would much rather go someplace warm & tropical. We would take this trip for his birthday & since he was so skeptical of such a cold location, I knew I had to make this 100% on point, & it was just that!
Planning a trip for us starts anywhere from 3-6 months in advance, & in September I was able to get a round trip tickets from NY to Zurich for $500 each with Delta. Making these plans of ours is always very tedious for me WITH Floyd giving an approximate 6% contribution a mere weeks to days before we leave, lol. I honestly don’t remember him giving me any input on this trip, it was all me! His trust for me runs so deep. 😁
Car rental, check. So easy breezy. No International Driver’s License needed AND we were assigned a lovely, new Volvo. Navigating the streets was super easy for him with street signs also in English. There was no snow on the ground, it was very overcast & cold, but we were back to see the beauty that we’d only gotten a mere glimpse of years ago.
Our 1st night was spent at the lovely castle-like property called Hotel Château Gütsch in a junior suite with a view of Lake Lucerne. This hotel was pretty impressive & did not disappoint. They were also able to prepare a delicious, decorated, chocolate cake (with prior coordination) for Floyd’s birthday. No matter where we are in the world, each birthday always includes a cake, & boy was it good, as well as the room service that night & the breakfast the next morning. We woke-up eager to started the day & ate in their beautiful dining room view with partial views of Lake Lucerne. **Side Note** – we’d already been to Sandals twice with butler service, but this Switzerland trip was when we began to feel a certain level of ‘Sassiness’ without even a clue of what the future held. This ended-up being a really dope trip that I’d planned!! 😁
From Hotel Château Gütsch we drove a short distance to Mount Pilatus to take a gondola ride high up that mountain for sightseeing. That was a very exciting & romantic ride up to a scenic viewpoint that was 1 & ¼ miles up in the sky. Once we got to the summit, we immediately saw a hotel there & I was in complete awe! I don’t think we really realized that there were hotels high up on mountains like that!! I was taking ‘mental notes’ 🧠. I didn’t know what I was going to do with those notes, but I thought just how cool it would have been to stay on the top of that mountain at Pilatus Kulm Hotel… We anticipated freezing up there, but the sun was shining so brightly that instead of the temperature feeling like it actually was 17 degrees, it felt like maybe 50. There was also a souvenir shop up there & a nice, casual restaurant with good food.
After enjoying the views & gondola ride back down the mountain, we hopped in the car & drove about 90min to the ‘German side’ of Switzerland, to a small town called Chur. Again, we had no difficulty driving, but we arrived after dark, he took 1 wrong turn & we were headed up a dark, scary mountain. Yikes!! Any of the mountains that we inadvertently or purposefully drove up while in Switzerland, there were no guard rails & it was scary!! Who builds roads like that!!
We were finally able to find Hotel Stern & it was a cute, quaint, very old hotel. Our room was tiny, the bathroom even tinier, but we slept so doggone good that night! I specifically think fondly of that cozy, deep sleep with the super comfy down underneath of us & in the duvets, every now & then. The next morning, we had to be up bright & early to walk just a short distance to the train station for our very 1st scenic train ride ever!!
The Bernina Express was so phenomenal!! We paid a small amount to reserve our tickets a couple of months before leaving, & then we purchased 2, 1st class tickets at the ticket office when we arrived to the train station that morning. Just an absolutely wonderful journey with the most amazing scenery, & could not have been more in awe of this train ride. We chose the route that was about 4hrs each way to Tirano, Italy & back.
Perhaps about an hour into the ride, we realized that there was a crew filming this train ride! It was a film crew for Mighty Trains, a Canadian based show. My husband, who’s never met a stranger, somehow struck-up a conversation with someone from the crew or the host himself, Teddy Wilson. Turns out that we were spotlighted with a short cameo! Full disclosure here, I personally just wanted to ride, continue to stare out the window at the most gorgeous, snow covered landscape that I’d ever seen in my whole entire life AND not be filmed…… Floyd just talked, smiled & was naturally hamming it up for the camera. I couldn’t believe that it was happening nor did I believe that we’d ever be featured. Well, we were!! Soooo, our episode is ‘Mighty Trains, Season 3, Episode 6. Bernina Express.’ (I apologize, but I purchased the actual video for the nominal fee & linked it here, hoping that page visitors could see it without having to pay, but that doesn’t work! Some episodes of Mighty Trains are free & some aren’t) We were finally able to see the episode on TV ourselves about 18 months later, after a friend told me that he saw it & sent me a link on Messenger! How amazing!!
There were a few stops with time to get out for photos & then we were in the little town of Tirano. Let me tell you that passing through the Italian Alps was just as breathtaking, too! We were train riding on a Saturday & I’m not sure if there was just not much going on in sleepy Tirano or if we’d just arrived during their long lunch break with a few of the cute shops closed, but the absolute highlight was finding a little Italian restaurant very close to train station called Ristorante Vittoria. Back then, I was forever a spaghetti & meatballs girl, which is what I got, BUT Floyd had the very best spaghetti carbonara EVER!!! We’d never had it before & I so wished that I’d had his plate!! After we had our lunch, we walked around the town. It was pretty hilarious to pass by a movie theater & see that the feature was ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, in Italian, which starred Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury from the iconic rock band, Queen. If we had time, we’d have popped in to see it as we hadn’t seen that Academy Award winner yet (hoping that there would be subtitles!) The train stayed in Tirano for @ least 2hrs, maybe just a smidge longer.
We had a phenomenal thought that the next day we would hop into the Volvo & drive to St. Moritz or to Zermatt to see the Matterhorn. Well, the super nice train attendant ladies dashed those thoughts of ours, saying that it was absolutely not a good idea to drive through the Swiss Alps in the dead of winter! So glad that we’d mentioned our bright ideas to them because we’d have certainly tried to be on our way the next day!
The train returns to Chur after dark, maybe around 7 or 8. We had fun walking the streets & window shopping @ all the little shops while on our way back to the hotel.
The next day, we had a phenomenal meal in Chur @ a random place called Speiserestaurant Rätsuhof. The Swiss-type food was so different & good! They served a superbly different style of macaroni & cheese that I’ll never forget & will look for again. It’s called Älpermagronen.
The drive to Vevey was lovely & scenic. We drove through a few super cute towns. The next destination was our final hotel stay, which was close to Montreux. At lovely majestic & stately place called Hôtel des Trois Couronnes in the heart of what’s called the ‘Swiss Riviera’. It has breathtaking views of Lake Geneva & the Alps, & we were fortunate to have a Junior Suite with that gorgeous lake view! It was our 1st experience with heated towel warmers… Wow! The male receptionist was very nice & talked to Floyd @ length about scenic motorcycle rides in Switzerland & that really excited him! 👀
Vevey & Montreux were super clean! We walked down alleyways & there were no homeless people or funky smells, just fresh, clean, Swiss air. Lausanne was super cute & clean. We drove there, then walked the streets in search of dinner. While intensely searching, we stumbled across a grocery store called Manor. Talk about being in awe of all the cheese, wine, etc! We had another bright idea that we’d eat out that night, but then the next night we were going to ‘save some money’ by getting wine & charcuterie items, & ‘eating in’…… $165 usd spent at Manor was no savings (!), but what we purchased for ‘charcutes’ was to die for & another absolutely priceless experience! #drools
The hotel’s brekkie room service was delish the next morning, & then ventured out to tour a medieval castle that was close by called ‘Chillon Castle’. So very neat to see & tour!
To top off the ending to this trip of a lifetime, we were given a recommendation by a front desk person for a place for lunch. I’m not so sure if we knew that it was high up a snowy, slightly treacherous mountain prior to making that turn off a main road, but it was just that… ‘treachery’! Again, our travel life is all about unique & different experiences, & boy have we had some. What we were about to be treated to was so so good & utterly just another to die for experience. So here you go:
We arrived @ Le CouCou long after lunch. It was about 5pm-ish. This restaurant was attached to a small hotel with only 7 rooms, so there were a few cars out there. We saw no one immediately in Le CouCou, but the door was unlocked, we walked in & was in awe of this very cute, Swiss style restaurant that was like something I would dream about! It didn’t take long for us to be warmly greeted by a single worker who said ‘We’re closed, but I can do fondue for you….?’ Huh?! What?! Oh my goodness, bring it on!! We were super excited & so happy! We dined on the most exquisite fondue that one could ever hope for & experience! We had 2 different types that was served in pots with tea lights underneath. Want to know what we ate it with? Bread bites & tiny potatoes!! When I tell you all that it was the best stuff ever…!!! I mean, who goes to The Melting Pot???!!! It’s so unremarkable that I won’t even leave a link to the website, but we’ve been once, never, ever have to go again! Not only was it pretty bad, but it certainly was not worth the $$$$$! AND now that I know what #realfondue is & tastes like….. from Le CouCou….. Well, I’m actually headed right this minute on my way back to Switzerland with my daughter for the Christmas markets, a girls trip AND another taste of some real fondue. And guess what? Remember that I wanted to see either the Matterhorn or St. Moritz? Well, we get to do both + another scenic train ride! So stay tuned!