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  • Writer's pictureDeb Smithers

Lake Geneva - Switzerland

The Stunning Lac Leman

After arriving in Switzerland, I spent a few wonderful weeks in Brugg, with the company of a dear friend who lived with me in Australia while studying. For years she had wished for me to visit her, and at last there I was. We had some crazy moments and visited incredible places that I would never have imagined I would see.

My next adventure would see me leaving Switzerland and way out of my comfort zone, traveling around Europe alone for several months. I decided on a test run, taking a trip down to Lake Geneva for a few days. I wanted to see Jet d'Eau and explore Geneva's several stunning Art and Historical Museums. I especially wanted to visit the monumental castle Chateaux de Chillon, which stands on the lake's edge in Montreux. One of Switzerland's most famous historic landmarks.

I took a train from Brugg AU to Bern, then onto Geneva. The train journey was incredible with a view of breathtaking landscapes.

I was very impressed at the cleanliness aboard the Swiss train. The carriage was decorated with plush seats, head pillows, and velvet curtains. I had a seat table, charging ports, and service with the trip taking around 3 hours. Not at all like the trains back home in Australia. I took in the views, read my book, and enjoyed the brownies Manuela had made.

It was only in the last 30 minutes that the ticket master arrived, and after glancing at my ticket, she stared down at me with disgrace and spoke abruptly. "Sorry, no understand, I'm from Oz"! I replied. "Well, Miss Australia" she continued in English, "You have a second-class ticket, and this is a first-class carriage!" But, as I fumbled to gather my things and apologise, she gestured me to sit and with no sign of a smile, she moved through to the next carriage, and I continued traveling to Geneva like a queen.

Arriving at Gare Cornavin, (Geneva Station) was quite overwhelming, it was huge and bustling with people. Cornavin is the major transport hub for domestic and international train services, brimming with unique shops, bars, and marvelous restaurants. Perfect for last-minute essentials and gifts. Trains connect to neighboring countries like France and Italy, and also to destinations such as Milan, Paris, and Lyon.

Geneva is the capital of Switzerland, the headquarters of Europe's United Nations, and one of the world's most important financial centers. Alps surround the Canton with views of the dramatic Mont Blanc (white mountain), on the border of France and Italy. Geneva is rich with French, German, and Swiss influences, and I still reminisce over profiteroles, Kransky, and fondue.

Take the walk from the station to the Lake, and the first thing you will see is the Jet D'Eau. This magnificent fountain is situated at the point of the lake where it flows into the Rhône River. The fountain shoots water 140 metres into the air, pumping water through a nozzle at 200 km p/h. Originally it was a hydraulic power source for Geneva's factories, until it was moved to the lake as a decorative feature in 1886 becoming one of Geneva's favorite attractions.

Head to the fountain platform, it is a lovely walk around the lake while stopping for gelato and feeling the spray of water. At night it is illuminated with a stunning visual display with the city as its backdrop. Take in the view while fine dining at one of the many restaurants near the fountain.

The people of Geneva were indeed hospitable. I began the evening enjoying a quiet fondue and wine, to the next moment I was sitting around a table of 11 hilarious and very tipsy French people. I have never laughed so hard and it was another "pinch myself moment" with a view never to be forgotten.

Photo by Wikipedia.

Catching the boat from Geneva to Montreux was easy, from the station just head down to the Lakefront and to Quai du Mont-Blanc wharf. Here the ferry departs and takes 4.5 hours and costs around $30, it is well worth it if you are not time short. You can also travel to Montreux by train, which takes 1 hour and costs around $12.

To make it more memorable, hop aboard the 'La Suisse', one of the Belle Epoque Steamers, with Lake Geneva having one of the largest fleets. The steamers are amazing and it is a leisurely affair taking 4-5 hours. The boat passes incredibly close to Castle Chillon, making it perfect for taking photos.

Get your tickets for the boat online prior and be sure to check when the last boat returns to Geneva. (I did learn that one the hard way)

Arriving in Montreux was impressive, very French and the architecture was mesmerizing. I do the usual, sit with a coffee and people-watch for a while. It's a great way to get a feel for a place when arriving.

Making your way to the castle, you can enjoy a stroll along the lakeside promenade. The town was bustling with people and I quickly came to learn that I had arrived at the start of the Montreux Jazz Festival, referred to as a "melting pot of musical creativity".

The promenade was lined with Stalls, music, pop-up restaurants, and drink vendors. I stopped for pizza and a refreshing beer while enjoying the music and lake views. The vibe was infectious and to my absolute surprise, I saw a local musician from Byron Bay who has brought his unique style to Montreux. I sit and enjoy the music until he spots me, and with that, he stands and begins a new song. "I come from a land down under...!". A few Aussies in the crowd jump up and before long there is a dance circle jiving it out to 'Men at Work'. Very Australian.

On a sweltering hot day, it was lovely that you could take a swim in the clear turquoise lake to cool off and everyone was in!

Walk along to see the Big Freddie Mercury Statue, see the promenade's many water features, and check out the Montreux Jazz Festival Foundation.

When arriving at Castle Chillon, I could do nothing but stand and stare in amazement at this sensational landmark, its timeless charm dating back to the 12th century. With astonishing views of the lake surrounded by the Swiss Alps, the location of the Chateaux is picturesque. The castle comprises of 25 rooms and 2 large courtyards surrounded by 2 circular walls. The landside of the Castle served as a fortress and the waterside a residence for royals. Also known to have been a prison with hidden dungeons. It has a fascinating history, including stories of intrigue, battles, and romance associated within its walls, and if only these walls could talk.

I Loved it! Entry ticket cost $30 and I spent a good 3 hours looking around and taking some fab photos. I was intrigued while learning about its history, and architecture, and offering a rich glimpse into medieval life.

While there, you can indulge in dinner at the Lord Byron restaurant and enjoy the lake views. The restaurant was named after the famous poet, Lord Byron. It was Lord Byron who wrote the poem "The Prisoner of Chillon" in 1816.

But without giving more away, read my blog - Chateaux de Chillon.

Now I'm certainly no expert on castles, although I am lucky to have seen quite a few magnificent ones while traveling, but for me, none compares to Chillon. It is one of the most beautiful water castles in the world.

A few days in Geneva was fantastic and after arriving back in Brugg, I felt more excited about my next journey traveling Europe. The locals were great, the music was infectious and the food was superb!

Being a travel foodie, I am always up for trying new and different things, I recommend that you try one of the Station's famous giant Swiss pretzels with a filling of your desire.

When visiting Geneva there is so much to see and do.

  • Visit the bohemian district of Carouge, often described as little Italy.

  • Jet d'Eau, is situated at the point where Lake Geneva empties into the Rhône River.

  • Hit the shops! - Upmarket shopping in Rue du Mont-Blanc, Boho in Carouge, and vintage from the Plainpalais Flea Market with a treasure trove of items.

  • Visit the charming Lavaux Vineyards where the vines tumble down to the lakeside.

  • St Pierre Cathedral.

  • Stroll along the quays or relax by the water.

  • Explore the Geneva Museum of Art and History.

  • Enjoy some Swiss specialties like Fondue, Raclette, and Älplermagronen

  • Enjoy a day trip onboard Switzerland's Belle Epoque Steamers.

  • Get on board Geneva's infamous Cheese Boat, a culinary experience while floating around Lake Geneva enjoying the magnificent views.

  • Montreux Jazz Festival Foundation.

And of course, you absolutely must visit Cillion Castle in Montreux.

These guys are famous for their signature fondue dishes.

Mont-Blanc - Geneva

“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”

John O’Donohue

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