Switzerland summer breaks - Lucerne and Interlaken

Posted on: 22 July 2013 by Diane Priestley

Diane Priestley enjoys the picturesque lake and mountain region of Switzerland in the gentle summer months.

Lucerne old town

Here we are, a mixed bunch of British journalists, five of us seasoned travellers aged over 50 with a bottomless supply of well-honed travel tales to trade and two enthusiastic, bright young women in their 20s, savvy with languages and online smarts. We flew out of UK airports on effortless one-hour Swiss flights followed by an easy two-hour train ride from Zurich on our Swiss Flexi Passes to Lucerne, the heartland of glorious Switzerland, all set for a carefully designed five day tour organised by Thomson Lakes and Mountains.

Our mission is to experience the picturesque lake and mountain region in the gentle summer months, when the majestic mountains are lush and verdant and dotted with bell-clanging cows. The locals joke with the tourists: “Why do Swiss cows wear bells? Because they haven’t got horns!”

The destination, famous for winter skiing when the snow-draped peaks are over-run with neon-clad skiers, is now transformed to a lake-centric playground in mid-July. Summertime and the living is easy.

Lake Lucern is 38 kilometers long, 250 meters deep in parts and the fifth largest lake in Switzerland. Tiny Switzerland with a population of eight million and landmass of just 350 kms by 220 kms is landlocked by Germany to the north, Austria to the east, France to the west and Italy to the south, cradled lovingly by mountains and laced with tranquil lakes that feed the human psyche’s need for reassuring views of water.

Lake Lucern

Lake LucernAfter a pleasant night at Hotel Waldstatterhof, it’s Wednesday and Day One of sightseeing with the focus on nature’s spectacular beauty. If the metaphor for Lake Lucern is a jewel, in summer this precious stone is jade. The opaque milky green depths are so mesmerising, so still and serene the throng of tourists on board the sturdy paddle steamer with the captain aloft on his trusty perch, exude a sense that all is well with the world as we chug along absorbing the panorama of all-encompassing, snow-capped mountains and quaint villages that dot the shoreline.

We are blessed with perfect weather, although when we dock at Vitznau and take the dainty cogwheel train up to Mount Rigi, the cloud cover obscures views of the mountains but we don’t mind because lunch draws us inside to the Restaurant Hotel Rigi-Kulm. After an appetising main meal we discover that the child-like joy of delicate Swiss icecream!

Mineralbad and Spa Rigi Kaltbad

And then, another Swiss custom, not exactly an action sport, but a sedate activity ideal for older travellers; an exquisite float in the warm baths of the Mineralbad & Spa Rigi Kaltbad. Us girls don our swimsuits and enter the gentle embrace of the clear water and wade around trying the different massaging jets and then glide outside to sit in the soothing pool on top of the world gazing at the surrounding mountains; a sneak preview of Heaven!

Mineralbad & Spa Rigi KaltbadFeeling refreshed we head down the mountain in our bright red cogwheel train, enjoying the ineffable scenery, and then another jaunty boat ride in the breeze.

Dragging our luggage through the busy streets we move to the Ambassador and are warmly welcomed by hotelier Ferdinand who also runs the superb Lapin restaurant where that evening we devour gourmet delights. The master chef is happy to oblige with a special vegetarian meal for me, and exquisite seafood for my fellow diners and a sampling of unique local wines.

 

Bechenreid and Klewenalp

Well maybe it was the wine that muddled my brain because before bed I put away my watch in my jewelry bag in the bathroom and next morning I’m relying on my iphone, which is still on UK time, one hour behind! So when I waft downstairs for breakfast the rest of the group is ready to set off! Startled by my mistake I quickly attack the buffet and taking my last swig of coffee, I watch in dismay through the window as my group vanishes around the corner. Young Jennifer, our tour leader, comes to my rescue and we charge off after them. But when we reach the bridge I look across at the waiting boat and realise with a groan I’ve forgotten my ticket, neatly tucked away in my suitcase!

Now only recently I started jogging classes at the fitness club back home in Kent so Jennifer and I sprint through the crowded streets back to the hotel. I grab my ticket and we sprint to the boat and jump aboard just as it’s pulling out! We literally almost missed the boat by seconds! With my heart thumping and struggling to breathe, we give each other a high five. So this is my own little taste of ‘extreme’ sports. My jogging coach will be so proud!

Bechenreid cruiseAfter the drama, our intrepid group settles in for the cheerful cruise to Bechenreid. There’s only one way up the mountain to Klewenalp; in a cableway capsule, pressed close and cosy like commuters in the London Tube.

To my delight we meet impressive young Australian woman Rachel who speaks fluent German in her role as Communications Manager with Ricola. As fellow Aussies we swap stories about ‘back home’ before Rachel gives us an informative talk about the company that makes herbal drops for the world! We see sample garden beds of the 13 herbs that go into their natural products and learn that around 100 mountain farmers grow the organic herbs for Ricola in a generational business that has flourished for 80 years.

Restaurant at KlewenalpAt the friendly restaurant on Klewenalp, we are treated to a hearty traditional lunch of cheesy macaroni with potato, topped with fried onions and served with apple sauce! It’s a Swiss favourite on freezing days when your body needs a carb load to beat the cold! Luckily I’m wearing stretchy pants! And of course this mountain of mountain food is followed by a massive serve of chocolate, caramel and hazelnut ice cream! Bang goes the diet!  

We all loosen our belts on the boat ride back to our hotel and freshen up before our next attraction, a leisurely tour of Lucern.

 

Information about this trip

Thomson Lakes offers 7 nights half board at the 3* Hotel de la Paix in Lucerne from £889 per person. Price includes flights from Heathrow to Zurich and train transfers. Regional airports are available at a supplement from £20 (Birmingham) and £40 (Manchester).
For bookings and details Tel: 0871 230 8181
 
A week’s half board at the 4* Hotel Interlaken costs from £725 per person.
 
For more information on Switzerland, please visit www.myswitzerland.com and www.swiss.com
 
 

Read Part 2 of my trip around Lucerne and Interlaken

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