September 10-20, 2023
Mike and Judy Henderson
We had signed up for this Tauck Switzerland tour prior to the pandemic, and had to cancel. But we still wanted to go so we rescheduled for 2023.
9/07/2023 (Thursday) Judy's cousin Jean is traveling with us. She lives in Bend, OR and arrived at our local airport, Santa Ana/John Wayne, today.
9/08/2023 (Friday) We woke up this morning to a message from Swiss Air that our flight (LX41) was delayed from 7:30pm to about 9pm. That will put us into Zurich too late to make our flight to Geneva, so they rescheduled us to a later flight (LX2816) out of Zurich, arriving in Geneva at 9:40pm. Tauck had made arrangements for a transfer company to meet us in Geneva, so I called Tauck with the changes. They will arrange with the transfer company to meet us at the later time
Later, we received a message that our flight out of LAX will depart even later, at 9:40pm.
We took the girls (our dogs, Annie and Lizzie) to boarding a bit before noon. They don't seem to mind boarding at all. They get excited when we arrive and run into the boarding place. I think the boarding people spoil them - but all dogs should be spoiled.
Later, I noticed that the Carey limo was parked just down the street from us, waiting for 3pm, which was the pickup time. By the time we got our notice of the flight change, they had already assigned a driver. I felt it wasn't fair to change the limo to a later time because the driver might lose later pickups on his schedule.
About 2:30pm, everyone was ready to go. Even though we'd have to wait a long time in the airport, I called the driver and he came and picked us up. Here's our traditional pre-trip picture, me, Judy and Jean.
I thought we'd run into a lot of traffic, but the trip to the airport was quick. We arrived at the airport about 3:30PM
Swiss Air had their check-in open and they were not busy yet. Judy and Jean are at the counter with the Swiss Air agent, who was very nice and helpful.
We all have TSA-Pre so we got through security quickly. I didn't have to take my computer out, and we didn't have to take our shoes off.
Traveling business class means we can use the lounge, which makes the waiting a bit more tolerable. We settled into to some seats and waited. Our flight didn't leave until almost 10pm so we had a long wait. We each had a book to read.
About 9pm, we left for the gate. The plane was waiting for us - a Boeing 777-300.
We were in the air about 10:20pm. Judy and Jean had dinner and I tried to go to sleep. Eventually, they did, also.
9/09/2023 (Saturday) We had heard good things about Swiss Air business class, but it was average. It may be that the aircraft was older. It certainly wasn't bad, but not any better than business class on many of the other airlines we've traveled on.
About an hour before we landed they woke us all up for breakfast. We landed in Zurich about 6pm. A short train ride brought us to a different terminal to go through passport check. All very quick - the Swiss are organized.
Then we went to the Zurich Swiss Air lounge to wait for our flight to Geneva. About 8pm we went down to the gate for the flight to Geneva. The aircraft was an Airbus A220 with 2-3 seating. As usual, for business class they only put one person on the 2 side and left the middle seat empty on the 3 side. But the seats were standard economy seats. The flight was a bit delayed and took off about 9:15pm, arriving about 10pm in Geneva. This area of Switzerland is French speaking - although the Parisian people think the people from Geneva have a terrible accent.
We picked up our baggage and met the Tauck representative. I had been worried because of the flight changes, but Tauck made arrangements for us to be met at the later time.
The driver had a nice "station wagon" type Mercedes, and we drove to Lausanne. It was a fairly long drive, even late at night.
I was a bit disappointed that we couldn't spend more time in Geneva. I had traveled to Geneva several times to participate in standards meetings for communication standards - mostly modems. Those standard groups are part of the International Telecommunications Union (always referred to by its initials, ITU) of the United Nations. Although we would work on the standards during meetings in other cities, we always had to go to Geneva (the United Nations) to finalize a standard. I would have liked to see if I could remember anything about Geneva. I never went anywhere else in Switzerland.
When I first started work on standards, the group was known as the Comité Consultatif International Téléphonique et Télégraphique (CCITT) but in 1993 the name was changed to International Telecommunications Union - Telecommunications Standardization Sector (ITU-T). I always found it interesting that they changed the name from French to English.
The hotel we're staying in is the Lausanne Palace. This picture of the hotel was taken early the next morning.
The lobby area of the hotel as seen when we first entered.
It was now getting on to midnight and we were all ready to get to our rooms. Ours is on the first floor (which is the second floor in the US) and Jean scored a room on the fifth (top) floor.
Our room is very nice, facing towards Lac Léman. The open door leads to a veranda.
The only negative is they have a tub shower, instead of a stand-alone shower, which I prefer.
This area is experiencing unusually warm weather (about 30°C - 86°F) and, like many European hotels, this one does not have much in the way of air conditioning. But we were too tired to care.
[Added note: Here are a few numbers to remember to do a rough conversion between Celsius and Fahrenheit -> 10°C is 50°F, 20°C is 68°F, and 30°C is 86°F (just reverse the numbers for 20°C - 68 to 86). For extra points, 40°C is 104°F (both contain a 4). For values between the Celsius decades, you can use 2°F for each 1°C. It's really 1.8°F but 2°F will get you very close.]
We immediately went to bed and slept until about 6am.
9/10/2023 (Sunday) We slept fitfully and got up about 6. The large veranda outside the room is not private. People can walk along the veranda in front of all of the rooms on this floor. The lake is just visible in this picture.
At 8, we went down to breakfast, and sat on the outdoor terrace. It was very comfortable with the warmer weather. It was about 20°C this morning.
Today was just a day of rest and recovery from the travel yesterday. We walked around Lausanne a bit, but today is Sunday and most of the shops are closed. Judy strained her hip yesterday, so we can't walk a lot. Hopefully, she'll be better tomorrow after resting today.
The tour officially started this evening at 6pm with the Welcome Dinner. Here's our Tour Director, Carrie Myers,
She gave us an overview of the tour and had us introduce ourselves. There are 26 people listed on the Guest List. Twenty-five were at the dinner - one had flight problems and will arrive tomorrow. Here's Carrie talking to the group prior to dinner. The group, itself, skews older, with most of the people being retired. She handed out paperwork that said that this was the 741st tour of Switzerland by Tauck. So Tauck certainly has experience in Switzerland.
After dinner, we headed back to our room to prepare for an early bag pull (6:45am) tomorrow.
9/11/2023 (Monday) Judy and I were up about 3am this morning. After sleeping so much yesterday afternoon, we were slept-out. That's not bad since we have to get everything ready for our departure from the hotel. Today will be the first real day of touring.
We went down for breakfast about 6:30 and the restaurant was ready for us. Bag pull was on time and we all met in the lobby a bit before 8am to board the bus.
Our first stop is Chillon Castle, which was made famous by the 1816 poem, The Prisoner of Chillon, by Lord Byron. It's a lengthy poem and recounts the six year imprisonment of the monk, François Bonivard, in the castle from 1530 to 1536. The poem made the castle famous and generated tourism to see the site. You can read the poem here.
On the way, we stopped in Montreaux to see the statue of Freddie Mercury, of Queen, on the lakeside.
The members of Queen purchased a recording studio in Montreaux and recorded seven albums there. There's a Jazz Festival in Montreax every year now.
We continued to Chillon Castle. Here's a panoramic view of the castle.
We had a tour of the castle, but it was not that interesting. There's nothing really unusual about the castle except that it's mentioned in the Lord Byron poem. We eventually went to the dungon where François Bonivard was held.
He was chained to one of the support posts in the dungon, but I didn't get a picture of that specific one.
There's a memorial stone to Lord Byron in the dungeon. Byron is not buried here.
When we left the Chillon Castle, we headed to Gruyères
A view of the pastoral land around the town of Gruyères.
At the entrance to the town, there's a metal sculpture of a double bass, which Judy pretended to pluck. She joked that it was more like a quadruple bass,
I studied French but never was very good with it. I think the quote on the bass "La musique adoucit les moeurs" would translate to something like "music soothes the soul."
Gruyères is a small town, which appears to be focused on tourism. Many restaurants line the main street.
Judy, Jean and I found a restaurant and ordered a beer each. Judy and I have a tradition of taking a picture when we have a beer in a restaurant, showing the beer glasses.
And Jean and me.
Judy and I ordered the fondue, while Jean ordered the Rösti. Here's the fondue. It was okay - but a bit too bland for me. I'd have preferred a cheese with a bit more flavor. But I had to have fondue in Gruyères.
I didn't take a picture of Jean's Rösti, but it's in this picture. It's shredded potatoes, sort of a potato pancake, with a meat on top. She had diced ham on top.
From Gruyères we're now headed to Täsch to catch a train to Zermatt. We're not going to do anything in Täsch except catch the train.
Along the way, we stopped at Relais du Saint Bernard in Martigny to use the restrooms.
Tauck paid for it, but it cost each of us 1CHF to get into the rest room. That's over $1US. Their restrooms are definitely a profit center.
The store is named in honor of the Saint Bernard, Barry, who rescued more than 40 people before his passing in 1814 (he was born in 1800). They have a statue of Barry and a young Saint Bernard in front of the store. You can see more about the Saint Bernard dogs, and how they developed over time, here.
Then we continued on to Täsch, where we'll catch the train to Zermatt.
Gathering our group before boarding the train inTäsch.
And boarding the train.
On the way to Zermatt.
We arrived in Zermatt and walked to the hotel. I was surprised by how crowded the main street was. Zermatt is definitely a tourist town.
In general, Zermatt does not permit internal combustion vehicles in town. That's not absolute because I saw a diesel truck in town. But other than that exception, they use electric vehicles as taxis, delivery vehicles, and hotel baggage carts.
Here's a hotel electric vehicle.
Eventually we came to our hotel. The hotel is actually to the left in this picture.
But before we entered the hotel, Carrie, our Tour Director, took us a bit further along the main street of Zermatt for our first view of the Matterhorn.
The lighting was terrible, with the sun behind the mountatain. I'll have better pictures later.
Then we went back to the hotel and checked in. The room has a comfortable cottage atmosphere, and the bathroom has a walk-in shower.
We had dinner reservations at 6pm at the hotel restaurant, so we didn't have any time to unpack. After dinner, Judy went for a walk and captured a much better picture of the Matterhorn. Behind the mountain the setting sun had painted the clouds orange.
That was the end of our day. I was exhausted, and was asleep before Judy got back to the hotel after taking that picture.
Tomorrow, we take the cog railway to Gornergrat, to view the high-altitude scenery in the area of the Matterhorn.
Our travels continue here.