Well, sometimes life has other plans. Especially in 2020. We have planned to discover Canada and being part of the weddingparty of a super cool couple we've met some years ago in Croatia - and Lindsey joined me for the Octoberfest as well. But as Covid is around we changed our plans and decided to spend two weeks in Switzerland to discover new places.
Although I have heard before about the Grand Tour of Switzerland, i haven't done any further research about it until my dear working
colleague Indy came back from his motorbike holidays and I thought it might be a good idea as the route covered many places we anyways wanted to go to.
The cool thing about this tour is that you can always follow the sign of the Grand Tour, you have several photo stops you are passing and there is even the possibility to fill up a snack box to get local specialities!
It would be an overkill to mention all the fantastic stops and roads we have seen on our 1840 km long roadtrip - have a look at the pictures and if you have any questions about it let me know :-). If you don't want to read the entire story, here my recommendations of this trip. We stayed in many good hotels and enjoyed fantastic food, but these ones are standing out from my point of view (should think about an influencer career :):
I loved to stay there and can imagine to return one day (different rates)
St. Gallen - Davos
First stop we were heading to was the city of St. Gallen - can't remember that I was there before for a longer time. After checkin in the nice city hotel Metropol we found a good place for lovely cocktails and a very yum dinner at the Pinch - they even serve Okonomyaki! Yum!
Next day - the weather was a bit cloudy we were visiting the "Stiftsbezirk" - with the very impressive library and abbey. Interesting culturual and historical part of the city - can definitively recommend it! Later on we did some shopping but before it escalated we moved on to Appenzell. We decided to get our Grand Tour Snackbox there which you can refill on various stops along the road - really cool. After a delicious snack we moved on in direction Davos which took a while as the route is mainly avoiding highways :-).
In Davos we just stayed for the night but didn't leave without having a nice hotstone-meat dinner at the Ochsen :-)
Davos - Pontresina
A drive which didn't took too long - we soon arrived in Pontresina and decided to do an easy walk in direction Morteratsch Glacier. Was very impressive to see and getting that close to it - but meanwhile also terrifying to realize how heavily it is impacted by Global Warming. We walked back in town and it turned out that the easy walk was a bit a longer hike than we've initially planned for a lazy afternoon :-) but it was worth and we enjoyed our well deserved and yummi Thai Dinner at the Deco Restaurant which belongs to the hotel we stayed.
Next day we went up to Muottas Muragl to do the panoramic hike to the Paradiso hut. We hoped to spot some capricorns - unfortunately we didn't have seen any but 4 marmots instead isn't bad either.
It was a beautiful day and a great hike - but I would not recommend going down after by the chairlift if your company is scared to death of heights :-).
Pontresina - Lugano
Next day, it was time to say goodbye to the Engadine as we were heading into direction Ticino! We drove several passes and it was a long drive where - at the end my patience was gone and we hit
the highway for the last 30 minutes :-) Arrived in Lugano, we made a stroll in the city and enjoyed a nice dinner nearby the trainstation with view over the lake.
Next day, we took the funicular up to Monte Salvatore where you get a breathtaking view! It was more than 30C and I think we were probably the only one who decided to hike to Morcote - a beautiful little town next to the lake. It was a beautiful hike but considering the heat it was exhausting too. To get back from Morcote to Lugano we took the ship back - luckily our arrival in Morcote suited to the timetable, as there are only two ships stopping per day and we booked the combined ticket with the funicular and the shipcruise before. Sometimes you also need some luck in your life, don't you? :-)
Lugano - Ascona
Yeah, after the exhausting hike the drive to Ascona was not too long and first destination we were heading to was the Lido in Ascona for a refreshing swim in the lake. After 6.00 pm you don't even have to pay any entrance fee yay! The challenge we faced happened after. The hotel supported us in finding a table for dinner, but after 8 calls even in Losone and Locarno they gave up. We tried then at around 10 other places, all booked out - crazy! But there are summer holidays and given the Covid Situation you can run into these situations. But hey, we found a very nice place, dinner was delicious and one of the best we had on tour (Limoncello wasn't bad either :-) I can recommend to go there. It is not directly next to the lake, rather at the entrance of Ascona - but food was delicious and the waiters were super friendly at Il Barone!
Ascona - Zermatt
Before leaving beautiful Ticino, we filled up our Grand Tour Snackbox and made our way through some passes again to Zermatt where the great Hotel Schönegg was welcoming us. The entry through the hotel tunnel was an experience already and our room just perfect with a direct view to the famous Matterhorn. We could see it even without any clouds around! Wow! For the rest of the day we enjoyed the spa of the hotel and a delicious dinner there.
Next day was hiking day again - yay! And decided to do the 5-lake-way. Perfect weather, beautiful hike - 1st lake (if you start from the top) was my favourite, in the 3rd one you can also swim as well as at the last one. We just made id back on time before a short thunderstorm arrived - after the sun was shining again and we could enjoy an apero from our hotel terrace and for a stroll in town.
In the evening we faced the same challenge again - either the restaurants were closed and open in winter only, closed forever because of COVID or full! But also here we found a place in the
Zermatterstübli and enjoyed a lovely Swiss Dinner.
The day after we decided to take the Gornergratbahn to the top before we leave. They have a nice promotion ongoing until End of November: People who had Birthday during the Covid Lockdown, get a free ticket now in to have something to celebrate! I am one of this lucky ones - thank you Gornergratbahn! :-) So we went up, enjoyed the fabulous view and did a small hike around the Ryffelsee - the lake which is famous for its fantastic mirroring of the Matterhorn if the weather is good. It was the perfect end of a fantastic stay in Zermatt, we absolutely loved it!
Zermatt - Montreux
On the way to Montreux we had to re-fill our Grandtour box again and did this at the Bakery Mathieu. They are specialized in products made from grape-seeds and the owner was very friendly and explained us the production.
So we got many interesting things into our box to taste as well as apricot-nectar made from the famous aprictos of the Valais, yum!
The arrival at the hotel was not that perfect as our stay in Zermatt ended. We parked the car for 5 minutes outside of the hotel for the check-in where we also booked a parking space in the garage - time enough to get a ticket. Well, welcome to Montreux then!
For dinner we had the same challenge again, restaurants were pretty booked but the hotel booked a table in a nice restaurant with friendly service staff and we enjoyed it a lot! After a goodnight drink nearby the lake, we went back to the hotel to be ready for our drive of the next day.
Montreux - Lausanne
Before heading to Lausanne, we stopped in Vevey to see Chaplin's World. A very well made museum about Charlie Chaplins life in the house where he lived. You can gain interesing insights and i can highly recommend it to everyone.
In Lausanne we checked in at Moxy - what a cool hotel! Seems to be the budget line of the Marriot - i really liked the style and organisation, super nice
people at the reception. Another plus was the location of the hotel as it was in the FLON quarter - I can understand why it is Stan Wawrinka's favourite place to stay there, it's just cool. But -
as it is summer - we also needed a refreshment. Easy ride down with the metro down to Ouchy and to the Lido there. Lake was warmer than in Ticino, entrance also cheaper because it was late
afternoon already (very fair I have to say!).
We were also super lucky with the dinner place as we followed a recommendation of the receptionist - he made the reservation and it was really delicious! if you're ever around the FLON Area, go and check out The Manhattan!
Only thing we were a bit unlucky was after: We decided to go for a stroll into the old town. But then the thunderstorm arrived and it started pouring down. Without any umbrella and still being about 15 minutes away by foot from the hotel, we were hoping the rain was becoming less but it didn't. The idea of ordering an Uber instead was good, but - we did not have any masks with us as we were not expecting to use any transport from our stroll into the old town. Fu** you Corona! So we kept waiting and as it got less intense (after about an hour) and made it safely back to the hotel.
Lausanne - Saint-Aubin-Sauges (Neuchatel)
Our trip was actually planned and booked quite spontaneously, we knew about the first week until Montreux, but the rest was still completely open. Before leaving Lausanne we visited the Olympic Museum - was very interesting with lots of interactive parts. Due to Covid not all of them
could be used, but still worth a visit. One of my highlight was to see the Pommelhorse where Donghua Li won the Gold Medal for Switzerland in 1996 - I had the opportunity to meet him in person
last year as he was part of a company event I organized and we still keep in touch.
Not sure where heading next as the weather forecast was not the best for the upcoming 1-2 days, we also heard in the news that you can't currently swim in the lake of Neuchatel. Nevertheless we thought we keep following the Grand Tour signs in direction Neuchatel - if there's bad weather, we don't have the need to swim in the lake anyways but as the area was also unknown for us, we booked the hotel de La Beroche in Saint-Aubin-Sauges. It was fun when I read a review (after we haved checked-in) which stated: "When I arrived I first thought WTF am i doing here. But as soon as I entered and met the host, i was happy to have booked this Gem." as I had the same expereinece and can recommend the stay in the hotel. We did enjoy a very delicious dinner (tatar mhmmmmm) nearby the lake at the restaurant l'Optimist - can recommend it! Too bad the restraunt of the hotel was closed on the day we were there, would have loved to tried this out as well as breakfast was really cool too!
Saint-Aubin-Sauges (Neuchatel) - Gstaad
Still not heaving the best weather, we drove into direction Creux-du-Van - not for the hike (which seems to be on everyones Covid-Holidays-List too :-), just for a view over the canyon. Over
Murten we were heading into direction Gruyère, where we thought to visit the cheese dairy of Gruyère. Well, we were not the only one who had this idea, imagine summer holidays and bad weather -
what to do with the kids? Sure, go and see how cheese is made. As we didn't want to queue, we only visited the shop which made me happy already. Will be back on another day where it might be less
crowded as the car-free-town is beautiful too!
As it didn't work out to learn more about the cheese, we had the great idea to checking out Cailler Chocolate, which was nearby as well. Waiting time for the next presentation: 4 hours!! But hey, there's a shop too - being packed with chocolate and cheese we made it to our destination for the day: Gstaad.
Arrived there, we were looking forward to a nice fondue (yes it is summer, but who cares - especially when the weather is not too good :-)) - but surprise surprise - restaurants were either closed or full already. So we decided to go to the Indian Restaurant Mango where all the Bollywood stars eat when there are any films produced in Gstaad - and there have been many in the past as the wall and the tv showed :-) Dinner was delicious and for the first time being on tour we could sleep in a bit as it was still rainy and we had time to relax - at least until the afternoon where we went for an easy Walk from Saanemöser down to Gstaad. Very nice walk with beautiful views - you can stop by at the art project "Mirage Gstaad" and it was just perfect to get some fresh mountain air. And then, in the evening we found a place at la Gare to get a delicous Bratwurst mit Rösti and Fondue in Bread! It was incredibly good that we decided to go for a supplement of Fonude instead of a dessert :-)
The next day we did a longer hike from Whisipile to Lauenensee. It was a beautiful hike with great views and we passed many cows. Some of them were curious and followed us which scared me :-) Especially in the beginning i could see them running down the hill and I was not able to move until I have seen them all down. I know that they're normally not agressive but you never know, I rather treat them with respect and as much distance as possible :-) But overall we made it safe to Lauenensee and by bus back to Gstaad.
Gstaad - Thun (Steffisburg)
The drive from Gstaad to Thun after the hike was not too long (still longer than the GPS shows as the Grand Route is leading you into the other direction of the lake for example) and soon we
checked in at the Schützen Hotel in Steffisburg where I booked a hiking package.
One dinner and snack for any hikes was included and after check in we went for an Apero and the dinner at the restaurant.
On the next day we decided to for a hike not too long and took the public transport to Heiligenschwendi and walked up to the "Blume" Tower. Was a very enjoyable hike with beautiful views over lake Thun and Brienz. In the afternoon we headed to the Seebadi Thun - but the lake was still a bit too cold for me (yes, I am a 25+C water person :-). Still relaxing though. In the evening we had a nice dinner at Genuss am Fluss before heading back to the hotel.
As we enjoyed to stay in the Berner Oberland, we decided to spontaneously book a 3rd night and extend our holidays for a day. This allowed us to take it easy on the second day. In the morning we visited the Beatus Höhlen which I visited last time when I was a kid. Still impressive and a must-see if you're Swiss :-). In the afternoon we headed to Spiez which has a beautiful Seebadi - I enjoyed it a lot there. Nearby there's a cute kiosque named "Pura Vida" where we met Samantha, the daughter of my uncle, who is working there - there are worse places to work :-). It's funny somehow you travel 2 weeks in your country, but the only two people you know, you're meeting within one day as in the evening we went for a delicious dinner at a very nice place - Konzepthalle6 - in Thun with Carmen which I've met in Martinique in 2016 and actually lives 15 minutes away from me back home. But it is Thun where we've seen each other again. It was a really fun evening, ending it up at probably one of the best bars in Switzerland (for Drinks), meeting fun people and enjoying it the way, that we had to walk back to the hotel as we missed the last bus. This is how evenings with friends should end and it just felt good having such an evening after all this trouble Covid caused and is still causing.
Thun (Steffisburg) - Home
Everything has come to an end and time has come to go home. We enjoyed the last drive through the Emmenthal, the Entlebuch region and a swim in Baldeggersee before we arrived in our home sweet
The last 2 weeks have showed once more that I am very priviliged living in this country with many beautiful corners and hidden gems which are usually not further away than 2h of driving from home in average. We have a beautiful country and a good life here which we sometimes don't appreciate enough. I try to do so better from now on which doesn't mean that I can't wait for my next travel abroad as I am eager to discover new destinations as well. Till then - stay healthy and take care! Thanks for the reading :-)