Postcard from Switzerland: Places the guidebooks don’t tell you about

17 Oct
17 October 2018.
Travel guidebooks are a favorite genre for me and I am a voracious consumer of their wisdom. Go to Europe without Rick Steves? I think not! Fodor’s, Frommer’s, Lonely Planet. and Cicerone guides also populate my Kindle.
Sometimes, though, guidebooks exclude the good stuff and include way too many formula places. We found two worthy outings near Lausanne that Steves’ and Fodor’s books barely mention. In fact, Rick Steves poo-poohs one of them. It was only because I picked up a brochure locally that we were clued in.

Les Pléiades 

We are drawn to high places that include trains and that is what led us to explore this area above Vevey just a few kilometers from Lausanne. The name Les Pleiades refers to the star cluster that is also called the Seven Sisters. I’ve no idea why this mountaintop is so named, but they have incorporated an exhibit called the Astro Pleiades to teach some basics about astronomy. It is dedicated to Claude Nicollier, the first astronaut from Switzerland. It’s actually a clever exhibit, but the draw on this sunny day was the view.

Me on the trail, Les Pleiades.

We found a bit of fall color at Les Pleiades.

Lake Geneva sparkles 1000 meters (3280 feet) below while there is a peek at Mont Blanc 60 miles away. (We stayed in Chamonix, at the foot of Mont Blanc, for 3 nights in 2016 and never saw the damn thing!) The train ride up is charming, a bit of a commuter route to outlying residential pockets from Vevey, but as the train winds higher, it becomes more and more rural. Each stop is on-demand only. At the top, trails abound along with a full-service restaurant. We took a very early train and enjoyed complete solitude for an hour until the next train pulled in full of day hikers young-and-old as well as a half-dozen mountain bikers.

Lac Leman/Lake Geneva far below on a stunning day at Les Pleiades.

You can just see Mont Blanc’s snow-capped peak. Hard to tell it is almost 16000 feet high.


This is one of the most fun trains we have ridden outside of the Berner Oberland. A narrow-gauge cogwheel train transports you from urban Montreux through forests and tunnels, to 2042 meters above sea level, about 6700 feet. There were stunning views on each side of the train as we chugged ever-upward. Stations served everything from the Swiss Hotel Management School to middle-of-nowhere cabins.
At the top, we found a tunnel to a viewpoint and a restaurant only open on weekends. There was also a cafeteria not-yet-open even at 10:30 and “Marmot Paradise” without marmots. The perils of off-season travel. But again, the views: stunning.

The alps as seen from Rochers de Naye above Montreux, Switzerland.

The marmots must have been in paradise because they were nowhere to be seen at Rochers de Naye this October day.

There are a number of short hikes available as well as long, challenging ones. You can hike up part way or down a very long way if your knees can take the beating. I think it would be beautiful in springtime although the fall color was not bad. A clear winter day would be spectacular and apparently, there is a Santa Claus themed event for the holidays. For the adventurous, there are yurts to overnight in.
At 11:00 a train pulled in packed with daytrippers, apparently arriving in time for the view and lunch. We were glad we came up early even though the marmots were hiding and there was no coffee available.

A fork in the lake, outside the Nestle Alimentarium in Vevey.

Lausanne and environs were fun to explore. The city itself reminds me a bit of Paris, although without as much charm. I have to keep reminding myself that we are, in fact, in Switzerland. We liked the waterfront in Vevey and if we returned, that is where we would lodge. Chateau de Chillon in Montreux was interesting enough, and we did take a boat trip to France for lunch, which was easier on the budget than dining in Lausanne.

Sunday lunch along the lively lakefront in Vevey. Did I mention how terrific the weather has been?

Another activity we enjoyed that is in the guidebooks was a saunter through the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, a UNESCO site. You take a modern, sleek, SBB train to a hamlet, then make your way through the terraced vineyards and other small towns on paths, roads, and the terraces themselves, ending up in a small town beside the lake where another train takes you back. In season, one can do a gastronomic tour as well as sample wines in small vineyard huts. Alas, the harvest is long over and we hiked sober.

Walking through the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces UNESCO site.

Little villages and grand chateaus with vineyards growing right up to their walls.

Tomorrow we fly home, so no more postcards for now. Maybe a miscellany/catch-up piece once I get over jet lag!

So long!

10 Responses to “Postcard from Switzerland: Places the guidebooks don’t tell you about”

  1. Jay December 4, 2018 at 05:17 #

    Laurel–Maybe we’ve discussed it, but speaking of cats have you ever seen the overlook to the valley in Orvieto where there are many cats wandering around. They all seem well-fed and almost domesticated. One place I missed–to be seen next time–is Largo Argentina in Rome. Isn’t there a kind of cat sanctuary there?


    • Laurel December 4, 2018 at 09:45 #

      Hi Jay. I do not recall the overlook in Orvieto, although I have not been there since 2013. We went by Largo Argentina almost weekly. Do take time to go down to the sanctuary when they are open, about noon-1700 daily, I think. They gladly let you see the operation inside where they feed and care for cats that cannot be left outside.


  2. William McAllister October 17, 2018 at 13:16 #

    Hey! Just leaving 6 days in Turin. Lots of potential but difficult for English speakers. Also lots of contradictory or simply inaccurate info. Otherwise a wonderful city – we have had a blast. On to Lucca, then Rome tomorrow.


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    • Laurel October 17, 2018 at 20:26 #

      We really liked Torino but speaking Italian sure helped! Lucca is lovely, too. I would go back. Say hello to Rome for me!


  3. Marcia Kakiuchi October 17, 2018 at 12:14 #

    That fork in the lake is fantastic! But no marmots…or coffee? OMG. You are right – the perils of off-season traveling. So many fantastic views and that Vevey looked like perfection to me. Thank you for continuing to share your incredible life with us!


    • Laurel October 17, 2018 at 20:28 #

      Thanks, Marcia. The weather has been unbelievable! And so many new places to experience!


  4. Patricia Lewis October 17, 2018 at 11:12 #

    Laurel, thanks for sharing. I always look forward to your posts. It’s always interesting to learn about places not mentioned in guidebooks and, thus, less touristed.


    • Laurel October 17, 2018 at 20:30 #

      Of course the downside of mentioning them is that more people will go there. 🙃 I don’t know that too many North Americans get to this part of Switzerland and not for such a long stay. It has been nice to not rush through the area.


  5. gayleseely October 17, 2018 at 09:48 #

    Oh this looks like SO MUCH FUN! Thank you for sharing – we are with you vicariously.


    • Laurel October 17, 2018 at 20:32 #

      Dear Gayle, I think of you whenever I photograph a flower. 😍 Yesterday I got some great shots of bees in late season flowers by Lake Geneva. ❤️🐝 See you soon!


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