Category Archives: Lake Geneva

Drink: My Top 5 Coffee Destinations

Un Café, Gare du Nord - Paris 2013

Un Café, Gare du Nord – Paris 2013

When I was in The Hague, my friend and guide remarked that the Netherlands has the best coffee.  End of conversation.

But doesn’t every country boast that their coffee is the best?

When I was growing up, I saw TV commercials for Folger’s, Maxwell House, and Sanka coffee.  Our choices seemed fairly limited back then.

However, by the late 1990s, specialty roasts began to gain speed in the marketplace as coffee drinkers’ tastes evolved.

It’s no secret that drinking coffee has become an experience and your local café has become a destination.  In fact, the Specialty Coffee Association of America “predicted that by 2015 there would be 18,000 coffeehouses in the U.S.”*  By 2006, there were already 15,500.

Here are my favorites from here and there:  

  1. Visiting or living in Washington, DC?  Hit Peregrine on 14th Street or Filter on 20th. Peregrine serves up coffee with time and care, resulting in a drink that rivals any European café.  Filter offers espresso and French pressed coffees.
  2. La Maison du Gateau in the Lake Geneva area of Nyon, Switzerland offers fuss-free coffee, pastries, and quiches, and is located across from the train station.  Hop off the train, fuel, and go.
  3. The Outer Banks of North Carolina has the Front Porch Cafe.  There’s a reason why this coffeehouse has been voted the local favorite four times.  The rich-tasting coffee is roasted locally by Kill Devil Coffee Roasters and served by a friendly staff.  In the warm months, take your cup out front and relax on the porch.  (Website ordering is available.)
  4. Wired Puppy serves up the best coffee in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  Located on Commercial Street, it’s a happening hangout any time of the day and a convenient place to fuel before a bike ride in the dunes or a day at the beach.  (Website ordering is available.)
  5. Remember my Dutch friend?  Zebedeüs in The Hague is intimate and tucked away on a busy shopping thoroughfare.  Sit outside and order a latte.  Hungry?  The restaurant serves great lunches including omelets served on bread with salad on the side.

Tip:  If you like your coffee rich and inexpensive, check out Sweden’s Gevalia.  You can buy it at CVS or your local grocery store.

*Source:  Highbeam Business

 

 

Flying with the Aigles

Leysin, Switzerland

Leysin, Switzerland

Aigle, situated in the Vaud Alps and resting on the eastern side of Lake Geneva, serves as a base for poking around points skyward like Leysin and Berneuse.

What drew us to the area was the opportunity to view the impressive Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the EU.

Aigle (translation:  eagle), is reachable by train from Lausanne in about 30 minutes.  The area offers opportunities for sightseeing, hiking, skiing, and relaxation.

From Aigle, you will need to hop on a cog wheel train to get to Leysin.  Not familiar?  Cog wheel trains act like the hook and chain mechanism of a roller coaster–guiding cars up steep grades.  In the U.S., you can experience a cog wheel train in Colorado as you climb to the top of Pike’s Peak.

During your journey to Leysin, make sure you take advantage of the slow-moving train by capturing photos of the postcard-perfect towns below.

Being a gloomy Monday during the shoulder season, I didn’t think Leysin was going to offer much.  We were also coming off of a pleasant-weather high from the weekend.  Honestly, we were just looking for something to do and see with few expectations.  We were both wrong and impressed.

A short walk from the resorts and international schools of Leysin is a cable car system that seats four people per car.  Now, I don’t like heights and I don’t like confinement.  In fact, I get panicky in either situation.

Don’t let either stop you.  You can handle it and the payoff is worth it.

Berneuse, Switzerland

Berneuse, Switzerland

Even on a cloudy day in Aigle and Leysin with zero chance of burn off and an ever-increasing chance of rain, Berneuse offers a dry and snowy atmosphere for gazing and picture taking.

The summit sits 6,700 plus feet above sea level.  It’s a little less than half of the elevation of Pike’s Peak which is 14,114 feet.

Berneuse offers views of the plush, green valley, town of Aigle, Lake Geneva (when clear), and Mont Blanc in the distance.

Hungry?  Warm up at Kuklos, a revolving restaurant atop Berneuse that offers regional food and lunch specials.

Berneuse provides an astonishing view during your stay in Lake Geneva and an alternative to visiting Mount Pilatus if your stay is limited and you can’t get to Lucerne.

Interested in snaps from Switzerland and the Lake Geneva area?  Visit the photo gallery.

Cruise to Switzerland

bdennisreid

Nyon, Switzerland – May 2013

Switzerland is landlocked by France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and Liechtenstein.

However, it’s not difficult to enter and exit the euro zone by boat when staying in the Lake Geneva area.  In fact, during our trip, my parents were disappointed that there was no checkpoint in France to add another stamp in their passports.

Lake Geneva (locally, Lac Léman) is surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountain ranges.  While we were able to admire the mountains high atop Berneuse and at the overlook of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Old Town Lausanne, we gained a different perspective of how vast and glorious the jagged and snow-capped mountains were by boat.

Lake cruises can be expensive especially when you factor in the luxury lines that serve meals.  I say this not to suggest that you shouldn’t take a cruise along the lake.  There is a cheaper alternative for your journey.

The CGN’s Navimobilité runs passenger ferries to points in Yvoire, Évian-les-Bains, (yes, that Évian), Thonon-les-Bains, and Chens-sur-Léman, France, and Nyon and Lausanne in Switzerland.  The CGN Mobilité is a public transportation system that operates ferries year round via the N1, N2, N3, and N4 lines.

Some things to remember:

  • Take your passport.  While we didn’t encounter checkpoints, we also didn’t want our excursion ruined if stopped.
  • Pay careful attention to the line you want to use for your destination across the lake.  Each line only connects to one destination.  For example, if you are in Lausanne, and want to get to Yvoire, France, you may want to consider taking the train to Nyon and crossing the lake on the N3.
  • Beware that although the ferries run year round, schedules may be reduced or cut on the weekends during low season.
  • Save some money and skip the first-class ticket, which runs about CHF32 to CHF77 depending on the destination.  Second-class tickets (CHF 32 to roughly CHF55) still offer comfortable seating and chances are, you’ll want to move around and take pictures during the cruise.
  • Want to hop through France during the day?  Trains from Thonon-les-Bains to Évian-les-Bains, for example, run frequently and only cost roughly €12-15.  Be sure you don’t miss Yvoire, a medieval city that is said to be one of the prettiest destinations in the Rhône-Alpes region.
  • Regarding currency, remember that crossing in and out of the euro zone means that you’ll be using different currency.  While some proprietors in France, for example, may accept Swiss francs, many do not.  You should have some Euros on hand for shopping or grabbing food.

Above all, be sure to look out and up at your surroundings.  Your journey to either country offers a picturesque landscape at sea and on land.

Interested in snaps from Switzerland and the Lake Geneva area?  Visit the photo gallery.

Eat & Sleep: Francs and Beans

bdennisreid

bdennisreid

Switzerland can be yours for fewer francs than you may realize.

The landlocked country offers limitless opportunities for sightseeing and experiences for those who love to get out and explore the natural world.  From hiking through the snow in Leysin, to climbing a church tower in Bern or Fribourg, boredom has a scant chance of creeping in during a visit.

Ask a person what they think of when you mention Switzerland, and they’ll probably respond with:  The Alps, chocolate, knives, and watches.

However, how do you respond when the person clutches his or her proverbial purse strings and responds with “a post-vacation diet of beans”, like a friend of mine did when I mentioned I was traveling to Lake Geneva with my parents last May?

My friend’s response was somewhat fair.  According to Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, Geneva, Zurich, and Bern have found themselves in a Top 10 list of the most expensive cities for expatriates in 2013.  A quick cost-of-living comparison on Numbeo, a site that itemizes expenditures such as meals at restaurants, transportation, apartment rentals, and groceries, among others, confirmed that our destination in Lake Geneva was going to be higher than Washington, DC and much higher than coastal North Carolina where my parents live.

Even though other countries in the euro zone surround Switzerland, its form of currency is the Swiss franc, abbreviated as CHF.  Back when I was planning the trip, research confirmed that compared to the U.S. dollar, there was about a one-dollar-to-one-Swiss-franc exchange rate with a few extra pennies thrown across the Atlantic in the direction of Switzerland.  The comparison gave me some relief that the trip wouldn’t result in being “travel poor” even though goods and services are more expensive than what I was accustomed to in Washington.

I argue that frugal travelers can live rich while on vacation when they subtract expensive hotels, extravagant meals, and pricey tourist traps, and add free outdoor sightseeing excursions, low-cost cultural activities, and flavorful regional meals at cafés, sandwich shops, and walk-up food kiosks.

Minus a few meal splurges, we used our trips to the Coop and Migros supermarkets to our advantage.   First, we bought fresh fruit and non-perishables for breakfast and on-the-go snacks.  Second, several supermarkets have restaurants where we ate salads, quiches, sandwiches, and hearty meals (served on ceramic dishes and not on paper plates or in wrappers) while overlooking Lake Geneva into France.  Compared to full-service restaurant dining, we dined on fresh food for about 15-20 CHF per person.

Lodging wise, Geneva was out of the question not due to price, but availability.  Affordable hotels and apartments just weren’t available for the dates we selected.  Widening the search, I discovered Lausanne, the second-largest city on Lake Geneva.  Staying in Lausanne proved to be the best choice because it offered easy access by bus, light rail, train, and boat to the sites surrounding the Lake since it’s location is a little more than halfway between Geneva and Montreux.

Out of our choices, the Ibis Lausanne Centre won. Like any chain, I had heard good and bad things and had experienced excellent service and cleanliness in one city, and near paltry conditions in another.

The Ibis Lausanne Centre is a newer property with modern room decor, fresh bedding, wood floors cleaned daily, a large shower, and best of all, a price tag that allowed for separate rooms for my parents and me.  Much like its environs on Lake Geneva, the hotel is immaculate.  It also offers an efficient check-in/out process and coffee service in the morning that complemented our light breakfast.

As a bonus, the property throws in a public transportation pass (Lausanne only) for the duration of the stay, which came in handy for those days when we were too sore to hike from the train station uphill to the hotel via Avenue de Beaulieu.  The 3 and the 21 buses service the Lausanne Gare station and stop next to the hotel.  Also, the Riponne light rail station on the m2 line is a short walk from the hotel in a bustling shopping district and in a six stops will take you Lake Geneva.

The only complaint was that the rooms didn’t cool off during the first few days of the visit.  We were told by a front desk attendant that there was a hotel-wide outage with the air conditioning system.  However, the issue was fixed within a day and lucky for us, the remainder of the trip was cool and rainy making sleeping at night comfortable in an otherwise stuffy room.

One word about the flight cost to Geneva…I am not United Airlines’ biggest fan.  I’ve been delayed several times when traveling overseas and have found the response from employees to be lackluster as if delays are the norm and not the exception.  However, my non-stop flight from Washington, Dulles was only $950, and my parents’ flight that originated in Norfolk and connected through Dulles was around $925 per ticket, making it a cheaper destination for the time of year over other destinations such as Paris.

Therefore, consider Switzerland and rest easy knowing that you can fly, buy, eat, and sleep without becoming “vacation poor”, thus allowing you to experience all that this stunning  country offers.

In my next posts, I’ll discuss “leaving” the EU and high-altitude anxiety.

Interested in snaps from Switzerland and the Lake Geneva area?  Visit the photo gallery.