By: Ben Brown
The train’s engine gears over the tracks; the sound of wheels gliding over the railing creates a steady rhythm. Where am I off to this time? Small French-style towns go by one after another, many stretching only a few hundred meters across the lake. All are gorgeous; their parks and promenades lined along the brilliant blue water with hills in the distance. I look to the other side where vineyards turn the scene into a masterpiece.
Location: Southwest Switzerland
Average temperature: ~73° F, humidity: mid/high
Free/low-cost attractions: hiking/biking/rollerblading, lake, wine country, relaxing parks, famous castles, museums and Olympic center
More attractions: Water activities, paragliding, wine tasting, festivals, chocolate train tour
Transportation: bus, train
Cheap eats: Migros and Coop supermarkets, various delis and bakeries, lakeside cafes
Miscellaneous: Every hotel in Montreax issues a card giving you free bus service through town. Make sure to get a train schedule for day trips to surrounding cities.
LODGING: THE TRALALA HOTEL
Its set-up is just as stylish as the name. The bus drops you off in front. Other than the old winemaking equipment outside, the building looks ordinary. But bubble chairs and velvet lamps in the lobby quickly change the impression. Soft electronica plays in the lobby bar and through the hallways. You open the door by flashing your keycard in front of the sensor, then power your room by sliding it into the front light switch. Chic setup, flatscreen TVs, great service, excellent free breakfast, and a location just uphill from the lake make this a fantastic place to stay.
Tralala Hotel. Starts at ~$110/night.
We are in French Switzerland. The town slopes along the mountainside, curving out to overlook the nearby communities. Asphalt roads become stone walkways that lead to biking and rollerblading lake paths. Small cafes, shops, and rental centers are interspersed among the docks, where people are swimming. Grassy parks overlook the large castle at one end of the lake.
A DAY IN LAUSANNE: THE OLYMPIC CAPITAL
Just a 20-minute train ride down the lake, Lausanne is a mid-sized city on the hillside with several expansive parks that stretch through downtown and along the lake. It also happens to be the headquarters of the IOC: International Olympic Committee. The historic prowess of the Olympic games—all based right here.
OLYMPIC MUSEUM AND OLYMPIC PARK
Olympic torches and medals from every modern games since they started in 1894; remnants from the original games thousands of years ago; statues from every host city; movies and 3-D features of the games’ evolution and their highlights; athletic paraphernalia; a sand sculpture of Michael Phelps in the garden; the Olympic games in a four-story museum, with a video library, as well as another library containing thousands of books on the games… free.
Olympic Museum. Admission free with Swiss Pass.
It’s pronounced ‘oo-chee,’ not ‘owchy,’ for non-French speakers like me. Ouchy is the area that borders the lake and has parks that stretch for what seems like miles. Skateboarders and bikers land tricks on the central plaza. Kids are playing in the fountains. Snack shops and gelato stands line the boardwalk, as do people who rent out paddleboats. Bikes and scooters are available for rent also.
After perusing Ouchy I took a random bus through town to see where it would drop me off. I walked the old town streets and passed enticing shops and cafes, then arrived right by the Lausanne’s cathedral. By the cathedral is a beautiful viewpoint of the city. Couples enjoyed the sunset that reflected a beautiful red off the lake. Down the street, visit Parc Mon-Repos for relaxation in nature.
PALEO: ONE OF THE BIGGEST CONCERT FESTIVALS ON THE CONTINENT
Nyon. Six days. Six nights. Six stages. 21-million Swiss Franc budget. Over 100 bands drawing in more than 227,000 people. Moving displays of burning pots line the hillside of the park where the event takes place. People lie sprawled on the grass, eating food from exotic stands. You hear music everywhere you go.
Stages featured headliners like Moby, Amy Macdonald, the Kaiser Chiefs, Fatboy Slim, and others. And one stage was dedicated to international performance; people from all over the world banging on drums, playing guitars and cellos and accordions; belly dancers moving their bodies and Flamenco dancers moving their feet like they were on fire.
Local bands performed also. Lyrics are in French, but anyone can appreciate style. A lead singer poured tequila into his band mates’ mouths as they performed. He fed the rest to the crowd.
The entire Geneva region keeps its public transport open all night to accommodate for Paleo. I got back at 4:15am, covered in grass, mud, ash, and whatever the bands and crowds managed to throw on me. Calling all concert fans: Paleo.
Paleo (English options are on left side of web page). Tickets ~$65/night.
LAVAUX: WINE COUNTRY
Vevey is the first train stop from Montreax, and happens to be one of the main gateways into the Lavaux area, Geneva’s vineyards. There is a free bike rental right by the train station, open on weekends. Conveniently, the vineyards open up for wine tasting Friday-Sunday evenings. Bike paths stretch from one vineyard to another, each seamlessly blending in with the last. The crowds are next to nothing, aside from the occasional hiker or biker, and every once in a while the little green trains that take travelers through the vineyards. I parked myself atop one of the vineyard’s stone borders for lunch. You can book wine tours that lead you all across the vineyards, going from town to town to stop in bars and local houses and sample the area’s craft. Most vineyards are open for wine tasting from 5pm to 9pm. Tour by day, sip by night.
BEN’S INTERLAKEN VIDEO
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Benjamin Samuel Brown is a senior broadcast journalism student at the University of Southern California. Born and raised in San Diego, California, Ben’s travel experience spans across more than a dozen countries over four continents and both hemispheres. His preferences tend to stray away from the typical excursion, however—from hiking for backcountry ski slopes in New Zealand to volunteering on an army base for the Israeli Defense Force.
In college, Ben is currently pursuing the honors curriculum in the Annenberg School of Journalism while obtaining a minor degree in sculpture.
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Note: This trip was sponsored in part by Switzerland Tourism .