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Travel & Holidays in later life

SWISS RAIL WITH CLOCKWORK TIMING

Reg Butler returned to Switzerland on a journey into nostalgia, following the route of his first-ever European holiday when he explored the Alps with an 8-day Swiss Rail Pass. 

Of course, the Swiss franc is very hard currency, and prices can be unnerving. But there's no hardship in stepping down a hotel star or two. Accommodation is spotless in even the most modest of inns. And there are other ways of making your money stretch. 

For my latest trip, I wanted to combine business and pleasure. Business called me to three widely-separated areas. The rest of the week, I yearned to revisit the Alpine highlights.

My choice was to rent a self-catering apartment in Lucerne, in the heart of Switzerland and very central on the rail system.

Travel Facts

 

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TRAVEL FACTS

The Swiss Pass allows unlimited travel on consecutive days on the Swiss rasil bus and boat transport network. It also includes free entry to 400 museums.

For a villa or apartment rental contact Interhome Ltd., Gemini House
10-18 Putney Hill , London SW15 6AX . Holiday Hotline Tel:

0208 246 4100



Be prepared for higher living costs than back home. The exchange rate of Swiss Francs to the pound will make most items seem expensive. But the scenery comes free!

The gnomes of Zurich and their exchange-bureau colleagues in railway stations give you the best rates, and charge nil commission.

 Buying your francs in Switzerland is a better deal than from UK bureaux. 

More information: Switzerland Tourism, 30 Bedford Street,
London WC2E 9ED. Freephone: 00800 100 200 30.
 

Travelsphere escorted holidays

 

The apartment was booked through the website operated by the Interhome group which features 20,000 properties in 15 European countries and Florida.

In the main street of GrindelwaldJust pick your resort from a map or a drop-down menu. Then enter your preferred travel date, and the available properties are listed out with prices. Like turning the pages of a printed brochure, you get a photograph and full details of facilities and location. When you've decided, reservation is instant, and is confirmed by e-mail.

From my arrival at Zurich airport till departure a week later, the transport system worked of course like Swiss clockwork. Everything cog-wheels together - trains, buses, trams, lake steamers, mountain funiculars.

Incredibly for such a huge airport, we landed at 6 p.m. and easily caught the 18.33 train direct to Lucerne. While travellers collected baggage, an electronic information board above the conveyor belt showed the times and destinations of the next dozen trains out of the airport. 

Luggage trolleys are designed to ride up and down escalators to reach the railway station below ground. Our first impression of the double-decker train was the incredible smoothness and silence of the ride, like gliding over velvet.

The Lucerne accommodation was part of a well-equipped block of apartments, one minute from a bus stop. Every few minutes another bus arrived, direct to the railway station, the hub of Lucerne's transport system for trains and lake steamers. You just step from one to another, for painless connections. 

Lucerne is Switzerland's most popular resort, where even the bus drivers can speak English, French and their local Swiss-German dialect. 

The Water Tower on the River Reuss at Lucerne The town is beautifully located at the end of Lake Lucerne, where it flows into the fast-moving River Reuss, teeming with fish. A wooden bridge - damaged by fire in 1993, but totally restored - ranks as one of Europe's tourist highlights

Restaurants and small hotels along the river bank are colourful with murals, and every balcony is festooned with flowers. Swans pose for the constant click of tourist cameras.

Lake steamers offer endless possibilities of leisured cruising - stopping off at other lakeside resorts, exploring around and then catching another boat to yet another beauty spot.

Or you can take a bus to the suburb of Kriens, swing in cable-cars to the breathtaking 7,000-ft peak of Mount Pilatus, go down the other side by cog-tooth railway to Alpnachstad, and thence catch a steamer back to Lucerne. It's one of the great excursions of Swiss tourism. 

Eveningtime, Lucerne offers more entertainment than any other Swiss resort. In the famous Stadtkeller you can jodel and sing old Swiss folk-songs like "Roll out the Barrel", while quaffing wine or great tankards of beer. 

Using the go-anywhere Swiss Pass, my two most memorable days were aboard the Glacier Express; and a trip to Grindelwald where the pass entitled me to a 50% reduction on the supplement to reach 6762-ft Kleine Scheidegg to view the snows of Jungfraujoch, 6,000 feet higher up. 

The Glacier Express, connecting Davos and St Moritz to the winter-sportAboard the Glacier Express and mountaineering centre of Zermatt, is the most thrilling train ride in Switzerland. Advance seat reservation is essential. 

On Swiss mountain trains, goggling through the windows is not enough. You also need to look straight up to admire the mountain peaks, towering high above.

The Panorama carriage of the Glacier Express is fitted with maximum-view windows and a glass roof like a greenhouse on wheels. On a sunny day passengers ripen like mobile alpine tomatoes, while listening to an English-language commentary, French and German.

In some mountain sectors, the track changes to rack-and-pinion, and the train snakes through spiral tunnels like a corkscrew. It En route from Kleine Scheidegg to the snows of the Jungfraujoch sounds a dizzy idea, but Swiss railway engineering makes it work.

Above all, a Swiss timetable is 100% dependable, not merely a fond hope. Everything runs to time, and you can make even the slimmest connections. With free run of trains, lake steamers and postal buses, you can fit in maximum sightseeing.

Post Buses are the mountain goats of Swiss transport, climbing up into the highest side valleys, along narrow winding roads with precipitous drops to ensure that you stay awake to admire the scenery. 


"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

Switzerland Insight Guide - With its excellent and numerous photographs, and detailed descriptions, this book doubles as a holiday memento besides being providing guidance during your stay in the country.

The Fondue Cookbook - If you're hooked on the taste of Swiss fondue, buy this low-cost cookbook which offers a remarkable 50 recipes for cheese fondue, and variations using beef, poultry and fish. You can also experiment with dessert fondues.

Michelin Green Guide: Switzerland - The classic Michelin pocket format in its latest 480-page edition, giving ample scope for detailed descriptions of the innumerable Swiss sightseeing highlights.

AA Essential Guide: Switzerland - The Automobile Association's standard layout, well tested for other countries, covering the ten essential highlights of Switzerland.


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