A Travellerspoint blog

Chocolate train

Trip Report - Day 2: Chocolate train, Gruyeres Village, Gruyeres castle, Cheese factory, Chocolate factory at Broc

17 °C
View switzerland on deepab's travel map.

When I started reading up about places to visit and things to do in Switzerland, one thing which caught my attention was the Chocolate train. It started more as a must-do thing from Isha point of view, as I was sure she would enjoy it. Also, being the chocolate lovers that we all are, the name Chocolate train itself was so exciting :). And as I read up more about it, I started finding it even more tempting.

This train runs from Montreux to the Gruyère region from where the excellent quality Cailler chocolate and Gruyere cheese come from. It is better to make advance reservations as there is only one train which runs every day in summer. The link for the same is
http://www.goldenpass.ch/en/goldenpass/offer/view?id=15. The chocolate train reservation actually costs CHF 99 but with our Swiss passes, we got a discount and had to pay CHF 59. As mentioned in my previous post, we had collected the reservations from the information counter at the train station on the day we arrived in Montreux.

The chocolate train left from Montreux at around 9 AM. We were very impressed with the coaches. We travelled exclusively in 1st class "Belle Epoque Pullman” deluxe carriages. Breakfast with croissant and tea/coffee/hot chocolate was served on the train. I must say the Cailler chocolate croissant which was served to us is one of the best croissants I have ever tasted.

large_DSC_0246.jpglarge_DSC_0248.jpg

The route which runs between Montreux and Gruyeres is a part of the Goldenpass route and is one of the most picturesque ones of the region. Switzerland is a perfect place for someone who loves natural beauty and the best way to experience this is by travelling in their trains. Sometimes, a picture speaks a thousand words...maybe the following pictures will let you know what I mean.

large_DSC_0468.jpglarge_801C02AC9F6B89ED0AC61F48717E33E0.jpglarge_801DA147A65BF54FC23A7349FA18023F.jpg

We reached the charming medieval village of Gruyeres where we were taken to the cheese factory for a demonstration of how the famous Gruyeres cheese is made. We were given audio guides and had to just walk around listening to them. Though the experience at this factory was just mediocre, the rest of the day was so incredible that it made up for this initial disappointment.

large_8076BE259955B9BD6439201CDDF5AF18.jpg
large_DSC_0266.jpg
large_80726446CC909A377F603A196D9CF0B2.jpg

A bus picked us up from the cheese factory and dropped us to the picture-perfect Gruyeres village which is located on a hill. We had around 2.5 hours here at our disposal. The cute little Gruyeres village is the home of Switzerland's most famous cheese. It is a unique medieval village consisting of a cobble-stoned main street lined by ancient but beautifully preserved buildings. It boasts some of the loveliest scenery in the country, with lush green hills and stunning views of mountain peaks all around.

large_DSC_0491.jpglarge_DSC_0331.jpglarge_DSC_0300.jpg

We wanted to try the famous Swiss speciality- Cheese Fondue and had read that ‘Le Chalet de Gruyeres’ is famous for the best fondue of the region. As soon as we arrived at the village, we went straight to this restaurant hoping to get one of the tables upstairs with a view of the village. However, it was full even at that time...as early as 11:45 AM. We got a table downstairs and had a yummy lunch of fondue. Fondue is a Swiss dish of melted cheese served in a pot over a portable stove, and eaten by dipping long-stemmed forks with bread or potatoes into the cheese. For dessert, how could we miss the other specialty of the region - Meringue with cream. In fact, we loved it so much that we ordered a second helping.

Le Chalet de Gruyeres

Le Chalet de Gruyeres

Fondue

Fondue

Meringue with cream

Meringue with cream

After a very heavy lunch, we walked to the Gruyeres castle. Now to think of it, this village reminded me of some of the fairy tales which I had read as a child. The Gruyeres castle itself reminded me of the story of beautiful Rapunzel who was locked in a castle by the wicked witch... :)
The Gruyeres castle is a museum which gives an insight into the history and everyday life of the last eight centuries. The beautiful castle garden provides fabulous views of the surrounding countryside. We spent some time here exploring the rooms and admiring how beautifully everything has been preserved and displayed.

large_DSC_0531.jpglarge_DSC_0544.jpglarge_DSC_0545.jpglarge_DSC_0522.jpglarge_826182BEEF447E693C6E72697A4A3B72.jpglarge_DSC_0359.jpglarge_C1AD5FF7FAF5D5423B5353C9FF0DD205.jpg

Our bus picked us from Gruyeres and our next stop was the chocolate factory at Broc. This was a very nice experience. The interactive tour helps in discovering the secrets of chocolate manufacturing inside this operating factory at Broc in a very creative manner. The visit also traces the history of the factory from 1898 to the present. The tour ended with the tasting of the yummy Cailler chocolates at the tasting room...

large_DSC_0394.jpglarge_82D8298297F76E58DF9A56D30C341B41.jpg

After the chocolate tasting, Isha played for some time outside the factory where there is some open space and fountain. Soon, we boarded our train from Broc and reached Montreux by 5:30 PM. All in all, it was a great day.
I had got a lot of suggestions from people on different forums about doing this trip on your own as all these train routes are covered under the Swiss pass. However, I liked the overall experience and found it a much more convenient way of covering all these places, even if it meant paying more than what we would have by doing it on our own. I definitely recommend the chocolate train based on our experience.

We ended the great day with another long walk along the promenade.

Posted by deepab 01:24 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Montreux

Trip Report - Day 1 : Montreux Promenade, Lake Geneva Cruise

16 °C
View switzerland on deepab's travel map.

Since the time I fell in love with travelling, one destination which had captured my mind and heart was Switzerland. This love for Switzerland grew even more after watching DDLJ. For those who have not heard of DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le jayenge), it is a romantic bollywood movie of the 1990's which tells the story of a young couple who fall in love on a vacation in Europe. A part of this film has been shot in Switzerland and the craze for this movie and in turn Switzerland grew along with me all these years. A lot of people, including my husband ridicule me for this love of mine, but a holiday in Switzerland had always been a dream for me. And here I was, awed and dazed from the moment I got down at the Montreux train station. The romantic town of Montreux is nestled in a sheltered Lake Geneva bay, surrounded by vineyards and against the breathtaking backdrop of snow-covered Alps.

We arrived in Montreux at around 11:30 AM after a 8 day trip to Italy. The first thing we did after arriving here was visiting the information counter at the train station to get our Swiss passes validated. We had purchased our 8 day Swiss passes at the Rail Europe website as they were offering a discount. The passes had arrived well in time before our trip was scheduled and in order to use them, we had to get them validated. The Swiss pass gives unlimited free travel on trains, buses, cruise boats and discounts on most mountain peaks and we found it extremely useful. Also, we had to collect our chocolate train reservation tickets from the information counter. It is a quick procedure and we were out of the train station in around 15 minutes.

We took a taxi to our hotel - Hotel Bon Port and were pleasantly surprised. This was the only hotel of our 15 day trip which had got me really anxious. We had booked this hotel without reading proper reviews. On reading the bad reviews on tripadvisor later, we tried to cancel our booking but were not able to as they were non refundable rooms. However, the rooms were decently sized and had all the required amenities. Also it was a 5 minute walk from the beautiful Lake promenade area. In fact, I would not mind staying here again if we are to visit Montreux in future.

After freshening up, we went to pick up a parcel for our lunch. We walked along the promenade and got our first feel of the beauty of Switzerland.

large_DSC_0269.jpglarge_DSC_0272.jpg

We visited the Migros Gourmessa which is located along the promenade and picked up some lunch. Also, next to Migros is a swisscom store where we purchased a sim card. We returned to our rooms, had lunch and then left for the Lake Geneva cruise.

We took the Alpine Scenery Cruise on lake Geneva which was covered by our Swiss pass. For more information on the different cruises available on Lake Geneva, refer to the CGN website. We had opted for the Alpine Cruise as it was the best option we had (duration 2 hours) in the time available to us. This cruise took us along all the Riviera beauties, such as Montreux, the Chillon castle and the Dents du Midi mountains. It was a beautiful experience. This cruise also crosses Vevey, another beautiful lakeside town and Chillon Castle which is an island castle located on Lake Geneva. Though Chillon Castle was on our to-do list in Montreux, Vevey was something which we did not have time for, though I really wish I could get down and walk around this little town.

large_B5016BD2928924EF4C6985946A634ADF.jpglarge_DSC_0308.jpglarge_DSC_0311.jpglarge_B5060278D4627711A1A7C4EB7A36C07F.jpglarge_DSC_0335.jpg
Chillon Castle

Chillon Castle

After the cruise, we continued on-board and got off at the Chillon Castle stop. Chillon is listed as "Switzerland's most visited historic monument". Inside the castle there are several recreations of the interiors of some of the main rooms including the grand bedroom, hall and cave stores. The Chillon Castle was again covered for free under our Swiss pass. We spent around an hour here exploring the different rooms and courtyards, and reading about the history of this place on the very informative brochures provided at the time of our entry.

large_4FBF465DC2B7845D5BEA044EC1A49C1D.jpglarge_DSC_0361.jpglarge_4FC60B6E00E134D67F3CE630D10B17AE.jpg

We took the bus back to our hotel and walked along the lakeside promenade for some time. We walked along the promenade several times in the two days that we were in Montreux and every time we were mesmerized. It's beautiful all along...the flowers, the mountains, the ducks and swans in the lake...the atmosphere all around is just fantastic. Isha had a great time feeding the ducks.

large_50C0DE6E90A425F9FEEB939E9D74455F.jpglarge_DSC_0414.jpglarge_50CB7510BA4B3943E491DF3F3FCEAB64.jpgFreddie Mercury's statue along the promenade

Freddie Mercury's statue along the promenade

We had dinner at the McDonalds located along the promenade and retired to our rooms after another long walk. Frankly speaking, I could just sit there watching the lake and mountains for hours together. However, we knew that it was important to give our little champ the much required rest in order to prepare her for the chocolate train the next day.

Posted by deepab 00:18 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Trip Report - Day 8 : Milan

20 °C
View switzerland & Italy on deepab's travel map.

Milan was more of a stop over location for us while travelling from Venice to Switzerland for the next part of our trip.

After a hearty breakfast at our favorite hotel Fontana, we took the water bus to the Venezia Santa Lucia train station and picked up our luggage from the luggage room. While booking for the train from Venice to Milan, I had made one blunder which I realized later. Actually I was not aware that the Venice Mestre station was located on the mainland while the Venezia Santa Lucia station is the only one which services the Venice city. So I ended up booking tickets to Milan from the Venice Mestre train station. This meant that we had to first take a train from Venezia Santa Lucia train station to the Venezia Mestre station from where we could get our train to Milan. Though there are trains between these stations every 15 minutes and the travelling time between them is hardly 10 minutes, it meant additional burden for us to transfer our luggage in and out of one extra train.

We took the train from Venezia Mestre at 11:30 AM and reached Milan at 1:55 PM. We checked in to hotel Augustus which is located opposite the train station and was the perfect choice for a stop over. We had our train to Montreux the next morning and wanted to relax a bit in Milan to recharge ourselves for our dream destination-Switzerland. The only thing we had planned for Milan was visiting the Milano Cathedral.

We had quick lunch at the restaurant called Nico quick bite located just below our hotel and returned to our rooms for a good nap.

After relaxing for some time, we took the metro (yellow line three, direction San Donato) to Piazza Duomo, arriving in half an hour. As soon as we came out of the metro station, we saw ourselves facing the magnificent Milano Cathedral- the fourth largest church in Europe. Its exterior is a wonder in its own right, but unfortunately we could not enter it as we arrived a little after the closing hours. The piazza is a great place to sit idly doing nothing and is flocked with pigeons, so again Isha had a great time feeding and playing with them.

DSC_0254.jpg

We retired to our rooms after an early dinner at Nico quick bite and thus came an end to our 8 days in Italy. What a wonderful trip it had been...

Posted by deepab 02:01 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Trip Report - Day 7 : Venice

Magical Venice

18 °C

Venice has been described as the most beautiful city built by man and one of the most romantic cities in the world. And truthfully so. From the beautiful churches and palaces along the Grand Canal, to the Gondola ride, to just roaming the cute little streets of Venice late into the night, enjoyed every moment in Venice.

We left from the beautiful city of Florence at 8:30 AM by train and reached Venice at 10:35 AM. We were greeted by the pouring rain which seemed to be following us everywhere. In Florence, the rain had not got us very worried since we had 3 days there. However, we were in Venice for only 1 day and I must say, it got us anxious.

At the Venezia Santa Lucia railway station, we purchased the vaparetto (water bus) pass. For more information on the same, visit ACTV Website. We purchased the ACTV - 24 hours Ticket for 20 euros which allows unlimited travel on the vaparetto for 24 hours. Since we were going to stay in Venice for only 1 day, we did not want to carry all our luggage with us. We kept whatever we would need for one day in a single bag and left the rest of the luggage in the luggage room at the station.

Santa Lucia Station

Santa Lucia Station

While on the topic, I would like to mention a few very important points here:

- Venice is made up of several small canals and small bridges across these canals. Usually to travel to any hotel, you would need to get down at the nearest Vaparetto stop and walk to your hotel. This would mean walking over several canals and with a lot of luggage in tow, that would be a tedious job. So, keep your luggage minimal.

- Alternatively, you could take a private water taxi which may be able to drop you to your hotel directly. But this would be the costlier option and in our case, it was costing us 100 euros one way. So paying 200 euros only for a taxi seemed pointless to us for our one day stay.

- It is better to choose a hotel which is located close to the vaparetto stop for the reasons mentioned above.

We stepped out of the Santa Lucia station and protected by our umbrellas, walked towards the vaparetto stop which is just opposite the station. There is something about this city that makes you fall in love with it the moment you set foot on it. We took the vaporetto line 1 which takes you along the grand canal. The structures and palaces along the Grand canal are awesome and make you gape at them in awe. It is a real wonder as to how such amazing structures were created along the Grand Canal and how they are being maintained.

DSC_1262.jpgDSC_1264.jpgDSC_1269.jpgDSC_1272.jpgDSC_1284.jpgDSC_1293.jpg
DSC_1299.jpgDSC_1298.jpgDSC_1297.jpg

We had booked ourselves at the Hotel Fontana which is very close to the San Zaccaria stop (around 200 meters). By the time we reached San Zaccaria, it had stopped raining and again, as in Florence the weather was just perfect. Thank god for our good luck. We walked to Hotel Fontana which has only one canal to cross as compared to the numerous canals you need to cross for several other hotels we had checked. I cannot say enough good things about our hotel. It was centrally located (400 mts from St. Marks square) and a quick walk away from several fabulous restaurants. The room was very spacious and facing a cute little street. The hotel staff was extremely friendly and went out of their way to help us with maps and other information.

After freshening up in our rooms, we left for lunch. I had read up reviews of a wonderful restaurant very close to our hotel called as Trattoria Alla Rivetta ( 140 mt from hotel) .Venice is known for seafood and we had a delicious meal which turned out to be the best of our 15 day trip. We had fish lasagne and gnocchi in crabmeat sauce and of course tiramisu. What a fantastic meal it was...Also, the waiters at the restaurant were awesome with our kiddo which added to the experience.

We walked to St.Marks square which is the largest square in Venice and there were people sitting and enjoying their wine, artists drawing portraits, and pigeons flocking around the tourists. Isha had a wonderful time with her friends, the pigeons :) St. Marks square houses the St Mark's Basilica which is supposed to be a must-see. However because of our mistiming, the basilica was closed by the time we reached it.

People feeding pigeons at St.Marks square

People feeding pigeons at St.Marks square

St. Marks Basilica

St. Marks Basilica

Doge's Palace

Doge's Palace

St. Marks square

St. Marks square

We queued up for the Campanile and got a beautiful bird's eye view of Venice from there.
Campanile

Campanile


Bell in campanile

Bell in campanile

DSC_1359.jpgDSC_1360.jpgDSC_1367.jpgDSC_1369.jpg

It is impossible to complete a trip to Venice without a gondola ride. After St. Marks square, we headed to a smaller canal near our hotel to take the gondola ride. On the way, we crossed the Bridge of Sighs. This bridge is made of white limestone and connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. As per Wikipedia, the bridge name, given by Lord Byron in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cell

Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs

The Gondola ride was a pleasant experience. I think we were charged 100 euros for 30 minutes which was higher than the standard. The gondolier took us through some nice small canals and finally entered the grand canal for the last 5-10 minutes of the ride. It was a good experience but not worth the hype.

Bridge of Sighs as seen during the gondola ride

Bridge of Sighs as seen during the gondola ride

Doge's palace view from the Grand canal

Doge's palace view from the Grand canal

There is this pasta place known as 'Alfredo's pasta to go' in Venice. If you look up its reviews on tripadvisor, you would know just how popular it is. We headed to this pasta place following directions on google maps. On knowing that we are Indians, we were suggested some specific pastas which they believed would suit our taste. The pasta though decent, was too spicy for us. We sat on the steps next to a small canal close to Alfredos to enjoy the pasta and wine while watching the passing gondolas.

DSC_0063.jpg

Next, we walked to the Rialto bridge, the oldest bridge to cross the Grand canal. It was very crowded, which was obvious considering that it is so famous. We got some lovely photos of the grand canal from the top of the bridge.

Rialto bridge

Rialto bridge

View of Grand canal

View of Grand canal

View of Grand canal

View of Grand canal

We walked across the Rialto bridge and reached a quieter yet beautiful part of Venice. I think this place is called San Polo. We just wandered around for some time here enjoying ice-cream and soaking in everything around us...

The sun had already set by now and we took the vaparetto all the way to Santa Lucia railway station and back to San Zaccaria stop, watching all the wonders of Venice along the way. We basically wanted to experience Venice at night. Just as Venice is magical by the day, it is even more dream like at night. As the sun sets and the city is illuminated, the atmosphere turns even more romantic. It is less crowded and the streets, canals, bridges have a different feel to it. The water in the canals glitters with the reflection of the lights, the buildings are beautifully lit up...to know it, you have to experience it.

DSC_0104.jpgDSC_0117.jpgDSC_0120.jpgDSC_0135.jpg

After wandering around the streets for some time, we retired to our rooms still filled with awe and amazement about this city. We were repenting that we had kept only one day in Venice. We did not do justice to it during this trip, but hopefully sometime in the future if are to make a trip again to Italy, we would definitely allot more time here. Love you VENICE....

Posted by deepab 02:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Trip Report - Day 6 : Florence

Lucca and Pisa

18 °C
View Italy on deepab's travel map.

LUCCA and PISA are two of the most important historical towns in Tuscany and must-visit places for tourists.

We started our day at 8:30 AM and were driven straight to Pisa. There, we had a guided tour of the city followed by some free time at our own disposal. When you hear the word 'Pisa', the first thing that comes to your mind is the Leaning tower. Hoards of tourists come here to see this famous monument and of course, taking a picture of you trying to straighten the leaning tower is a must here :)

Our guide first showed us around the Piazza dei Miracoli or Square of Miracles where the leaning tower, cathedral and baptistery form the city's main attraction.

Piazza dei Miracoli

Piazza dei Miracoli

Cathedral

Cathedral

Baptistery

Baptistery

We were taken on a walking tour of the city where the guide pointed out several famous monuments and houses of famous people.

Street of Pisa

Street of Pisa

Bridge across river Arno

Bridge across river Arno

The Knights’ Square or Piazza dei Cavalieri is another important landmark in Pisa and the second main square of the city. This square was the political centre in medieval Pisa. Some important monuments in this square are Palazzo della Carovana and Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri.

Palazzo della Carovana

Palazzo della Carovana

Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri

Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri

After a tour of the city, we were left for exploring the city on our own for around 2 hours. This also included the entry to the cathedral for which the tickets were provided by our tour operator. The cathedral or Duomo is a very impressive structure and in-spite of being so close to the famous leaning tower, has a charm of its own.

DCD3D1E7BBAED2E38AFB7D6E12D0CDE2.jpgDSC_0876.jpgDSC_0862.jpgDCCFCE77EAAA44BB8D653A2261BC05DE.jpgDSC_0858.jpg

There was also an option to go up the leaning tower, however we were not interested in the same and preferred spending the time relaxing on the piazza. We picked up Paninis from L'Ostellino which had very high ratings and great reviews. We had the turkey panini and tuna panini, both were outstanding. We had a lovely panini meal at the Piazza dei Miracoli watching the leaning tower and the busy piazza while Isha played on the beautiful lawns.

L'Ostellino

L'Ostellino

Our next destination for the day was Lucca, another beautiful Tuscan city. Lucca is famous for its ancient city walls that have remained intact over centuries. By the time we reached Lucca, we were tired and did not really want to walk around too much. So we took the map provided by our tour operator and covered some of the most important sites here. This town though beautiful, reminded us a lot of San Gimignano which we had visited the previous day.

Lucca Cathedral

Lucca Cathedral

Streets of Lucca

Streets of Lucca

Clock Tower

Clock Tower

Santa Maria Church

Santa Maria Church

Torre Guinigi is the most important tower in Lucca. Its main characteristic is its hanging garden on the roof of the tower.

Torre Guinigi

Torre Guinigi

We left from Lucca and reached Florence at around 7:30 PM. Yes, it was our last day in Florence and we had not forgotten that we were yet to watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo. As soon as we left our coach, we headed straight to the bus station, picked up a parcel from Mc Donalds and took the first bus to Piazzale Michelangelo. The atmosphere was beautiful with a lot of people around, all with the same intention – to watch the sun set over the beautiful city of Florence.
We spent almost 2-3 hours here sipping beer and watching the sky change its hue from light blue to orange to grey, and the city being gradually lit up. To summarize the experience in a single world – Breathtaking

Beautiful Sunset

Beautiful Sunset

Sun setting over the beautiful city of Florence

Sun setting over the beautiful city of Florence

Santa Croce Church

Santa Croce Church

Duomo

Duomo

Beautifully lit city

Beautifully lit city

Watching the sun set over the beautiful city of Florence marked the perfect end to our 3 day stay in Florence.

Posted by deepab 01:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 17) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 »