Our recent holiday was a Swiss three-in-one special. We started out in our German-speaking Central Switzerland, moved on to French-speaking Vaud, then to the Canton of Valais where a mix of both French and German is spoken. Finally, we spent a few days in the Italian Canton of Ticino, wrapping up what felt like a whirlwind tour of Europe without crossing any borders.
I was hesitant when planning the trip. Our week in northern Germany earlier in the summer had reminded me how many things can go wrong when you travel. With our daughter’s trip from the UK having been cancelled twice already due to Covid, and our first time together in over a year, we didn’t want to take any chances. Thankfully, Switzerland offers a lot of different experiences in one tiny country.
Okay, they’re not THAT different. Lakes and mountains are usually involved. But within that mix, which I happen to love, there’s quite a lot of diversity.
Leukerbad Therme (Loèche-les-bains in French) is a mountain resort high in the Valais famous for the thermal baths. It offers some pretty spectacular scenery with a wall of cliffs surrounding the town. It also has some rather unusual history with the springs dating from Roman times and, more recently, a rather checkered past: in 1998, it became the first Swiss town to go bankrupt! (In a country not exactly known for fiscal mismanagement, somehow the president of the commune got sent to prison).
None of this had any impact on our holiday, although I must say that like many thermal towns, there is a confusing array of public and privately run establishments, with various hotels attached. The main one, Leukerbad Therme, is public and you can go and use the baths for a fee regardless of where you’re staying. It was a huge, maze-like place, with many different pools and areas and little indication in any language of how to access them. We still had a lot of fun exploring though. Everyone but me enjoyed the crazy water slides (I backed out when I found out they were closed tubes where you were in the dark). Madeline, our daughter, had a minor mishap inside one of the tunnels when she bumped her head and got a rather massive egg on her forehead.
It’s the only egg she’d have anything to do with being vegan. This made booking hotels and restaurant a little challenging, as the cuisine in the mountains is notoriously cheese-and-meat heavy. Thankfully I found a place that offered ‘vegan options’. It was a smaller hotel with a good kitchen and service with a personal touch. They laid on quite a good breakfast spread for her and had a few different non-animal choices each night at dinner too. Despite some confusion at check-in over their Covid status (she and her boyfriend were vaxxed in the UK and had not yet acquired the correct documents for Switzerland; a new law having just come into effect in the days before), we were given a warm welcome. The restaurant was rather good too, with an extensive wine list. No affiliate links on this blog but I can heartily recommend the Hotel Waldhaus.
Our next stop was Locarno, in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino (Teissin in French). It is on beautiful Lake Major, half of which is in Italy. We rented a place just outside the city, in Ronco Sopra Ascona, with fabulous views overlooking the lake. I had not been to Locarno before; it is less of a city than Lugano, with more of low-key vibe. Just across from our beautiful rental were a couple of tiny islands, one of which houses Ticino’s botanical gardens, called Isole di Brissago. We took the ferry across one day and spent a wonderful few hours wandering around the lush greenery, capping it off with lunch.
There is something sort of laid back and old-fashioned that I love about the Italian cantons in Switzerland. I guess the vibe is similar to northern Italy, which I also love. Our rental was in a residential area perched high up for the views. All of the houses here have names. There is statuary on the roofs.
The weather was only middling during our time there but our last day was magic. It was nice to end our vacation on a high note with a swim at the Lido. We kissed our daughter and her boyfriend goodbye the next morning and put them on the train back to Geneva.
Our last leg was the Simplon mountain pass. It seems I’d worried about the drive over the mountains somewhat needlessly. Unlike the train, it was relaxing and scenic. It seems that the hairpin curves and twistier roads are actually lower on the mountain. Once you get to the top the views are rather open. We enjoyed a quick stop to admire the views before heading down the other side.
We returned to Aigle (Vaud) to celebrate our son’s birthday before heading home the next day.
By the time we got back home to our corner of Lake Lucerne, it felt like we’d been away for a very long time. Which is everything you want in a holiday, n’est-ce pas? Non è vero? Ist es nicht?
How perfect. And catching up with family must have been the real icing on the cake. Memories that may have to sustain you for a long time!
Thank you, Margaret. I think you know just how that feels. It was indeed replenishing. But I’m hoping that we will be able to do it again far sooner next time!
Sounds like a wonderful trip!! And you had some beautiful blue skies too!
Thanks, Andreas! Yes, we did get some nicer weather than we’d had earlier in the summer. And we made our own too!
A family trip is always wonderful and nice scenery too Cheers
Indeed all the ingredients were there to make it a good one! 🤗
Wow…this looks and sounds wonderful! Your location is perfect for ease of visiting so many beautiful places.
Thanks, Becky! We are indeed lucky to live in this location. 🙏🏻
Sounds lovely, and great photos, thanks, helping with the vicarious pleasure. Years ago when we just used the train we would get the bus up to Leukerbad from the station, spend a few hours soaking, then go back down to continue on our journey. So Swisserly easy! I’ve been looking forward to going to Locarno for years and you’ve made me even more eager…
The drive up to Leukerbad by bus must be impressive with the added height on some of those curves. You are so well traveled, Colin! 😎 Here’s hoping you’ll be able to pack your bags again soon.
Switzerland will be one of the first places to visit, certainly. 😉
The vision of Switzerland with it’s snow capped mountains will disappear thanks to your glorious photographs one of which makes it look almost Tropical. Not a place I expected palm trees to grow. I’m glad you had a good time especially with being able to connect to your daughter and her boyfriend.. Saying goodbye again can’t have been easy.
Hugs Galore Mel.
Oh, you are right about that! Even more tears flowed as she no sooner got back to the UK than promptly broke her leg skateboarding! (Thankfully she got a pin placed in hospital and is recuperating at home…). Now we can even more fondly look back on that holiday. The palm trees are indeed surprising on the Swiss side but characteristic of the Italian lakes.
What a wonderful trip – and 3 countries in one!
Aren’t we spoiled for choice? It was great to be able to enjoy such cultural diversity without crossing any borders. 😎
Such beauty all within the same country. Lovely visiting with you, Mel!
Thanks, Dale! Nice to have you along for the ride. We are both lucky to live in such beautiful countries, n’est-ce pas?
It was lovely and yes. We definitely are!
Looks like a lovely time and Switzerland is a beautiful country (though very expensive!). Interesting how travel has become a bit different in this pandemic time. We also stayed close to home this year but we have now planned our first foreign trip since March 2020…we have never been so long without going away. It will be interesting to know how it will go and hopefully, crossing fingers, everything will be fine.
You’re right — it is beautiful and expensive in equal measure (especially $$ for foreign travelers). Hope you can make it further afield soon. You and Pierre must be itching to turn your lenses to new horizons again. Nice to hear from you, Suzanne! 😄
-grin- Now you’ve gone and done it! I can feel the wanderlust in my toes. Not sure I’d like to visit that town surrounded by cliffs though. Even in Autumn, it looks rather forbidding. Everything else though…-sigh- Half your luck. 😀
The cliffs are more forbidding in the photos than in reality, although I would not want to live there especially in winter as it’s cut off from everywhere else. Hope you will be able to plan travel one day soon. There is so much to see and enjoy in Australia but, like Canada, I guess it’s so far from one place to another that it’s hard to appreciate, especially right now. Courage! 💪
Yes. Not sure how Australia and Canada compare in terms of size but I imagine we’d be close. I’m using my virtual travels to keep the wanderlust at bay. For now. 😀