After a quick three day introduction to Europe by Star Tours, through a Paris tour, we were ready to embark on our exploration of Europe in Switzerland and Italy. After careful consideration of different options within RCI resorts, we had picked up these two destinations, one for its natural beauty and the other for the history, culture and architecture. I had to book this holiday almost a year earlier to make sure we get the right resort during right period.
Since the original plan was to fly from India during Maitri’s May vacation the booking were made accordingly. But then in the meanwhile I had to fly to London for my Credit Suisse project and there were changes in the logistics. In fact since I came to London from Indian payroll in January, all of my Indian leaves were frozen and I had no leaves for a year under onsite payroll. The whole idea of vacation was in doldrums.
The funny part is my project came to an end in April and I was put on bench, in search for a new project. Looking at the current market conditions, I decided to go ahead with my vacation and get ready for packing bags to move back to India if nothing works out.
Thankfully, my earlier work In RAPID for Citibank came to my rescue and I was back on project even before I leave for my holiday. In fact I had even finalized my home in Goodmayes, before I leave for the vacation, as I was in company guesthouse for almost a month now. Much relaxed with this last minute development, I could focus more on my holidays. Apart from paying the money, I did not spend any time to understand the Paris trip Itinerary.
But the case with Switzerland and Italy was different. What I had was the RCI resort bookings in some remote places in those two countries. Many questions like transport options, food, language, safety, things to carry etc. were hanging over my head, as we were going to be completely on our own there. But frankly, some of the internet resources and friends like Arshi resolved most of my queries. Arshi gave some of the key advices like getting a Swiss pass or trying to get a Metro bank card that does not have any extra withdrawal charges. She also advised us to inform Citibank beforehand that, “I might use their debit card in Europe, please do not block it”.
It was tough to get up on Tuesday morning, as we had been exhausted by the bus journey from Paris to London the previous day. Paris trip had consumed 3 days of my Switzerland holiday. Since the booking was done quite long ago, there was no option to shift my bookings in Switzerland. The only option I had was to inform them that I would be skipping my first 3 days and reaching there on 4th day, which I had done.
But then excitement of reaching out to Alps and having a proper holiday in midst of the natural beauty of Lysine village, kept us empowered and soon we were in the Gatwick express towards Gatwick. A shuttle at Gatwick station dropped us at the airport and after a quick security check we were in the waiting lounge waiting for the easy-jet liner to get us to our dream destination.
The plane took off on time and within an hour we were hovering over the great Geneva lake and the snow clad alpine mountains. The plane really takes a long turn here in air to align itself with the airstrip, giving lot of time to admire and absorb the serenity of this beautiful place. The cute houses, the green and yellow fields, the vast expanse of the Geneva lake, looking like sea in itself and tiny French and Swiss villages and also the towns spread across both the banks. We were a lot relaxed and happy to have finally arrived in Geneva.
The train station at Geneva airport is right below the airport and as we move out of the airport and crossed a huge revolving door we were right in front of the railway ticket counters and displays showing train departures. The Swiss pass purchase was also a big shocker initially, as the price that we got on internet was 360 while I paid almost 580 Swiss francs for a 4 day pass. Later we realized our mistake; I was always looking at the pass prize in pounds and did not really convert it to francs. Had a real long discussion with the lady at the window and the old lady quite tolerant, tried to explain us that it has to be some mistake. Finally we got our pass for four days. Later, we were laughing madly at each other as we realized the mistake and marvelled at the patience of this lady.
The shock of spending almost 200 extra franks had really put us off and we were worried as we had got only 700 francs and now were left with only 200 francs. Later I realized that I did have few pounds with me and got 100 more francs as Sheetal and Maitri were waited for our train.
This first ever train journey in Switzerland made a real great impression about this country and it’s natural beauty. The train was well maintained, comfortable and seats were spacious. The train arrived right on time. The rest of the journey was a treat to the eyes. As the train passed along the shores of this huge Geneva lake, we just marvelled at its huge expanses and beautiful promenades and cute houses along the shore. The tall icy Alps looked from the other side of the shore welcoming us to this country of chocolates and watches and great craftsmanship.
Isn’t probably the environment also plays an important role in your behaviour, your attitude? Probably the natural beauty and great atmosphere makes these Swiss happy, contented and inspires to do better. I remember reading somewhere that this landlocked country having no access to sea is the biggest manufacturer of marine equipment 🙂
Switzerland, the name itself has some cuteness, some romanticism attached to it. Isn’t it a dream destination for many of us, the natural beauty, the scenic locations, everyone keeps admiring Switzerland. Well had been hearing about it, had been seeing and watching the pictures and also few videos, but the first look at this magical place was also magical. Right from the time our easy jet flight took a U turn in air to align itself with the Geneva lake, to the magical train journey along the never ending lake shore and the snow clad alps mountains on the backdrop kept enchanting us. No doubt it’s a magical ride, with people looking equally friendly and helpful.
Train from Aigle to Leysin was more of a toy train with only two compartments and an engine that could climb at steep inclinations. We were to get down at Leysin village, but got little confused and got down at the next station. Reaching Castel club was more like lost in magical wonderland. The mountains, the cute houses and resorts on the slopes, kept our eyes glued, while the need to find the resort quickly and settle down kept us busy. A gentleman, with broadband on his cell phone came to our rescue and finally we were at Castel club. Later we happened to meet Joe again and was happy to know that he had been working in the software development profession.
The surprises never get over and this time I would have really fainted. As I reached Castel club happened to meet a couple from Chennai, probably a RCI member like me entering the premises. I was told that the reception is already closed and you have to inform them in case you are checking in late. But got little lucky again as the staff had kept my room open and left the keys on the dining table, along with a welcome message on the door. Thanks for the courtesy of Castel club 🙂
The interiors of the studio apartment was catchy, a wooden house, quiet spacious, a well equipped kitchen with all the amenities to make you feel comfortable and homely. What was more enticing was the view from this apartment, with the Alps Mountains in the backdrop, the winding roads of the Leysin village along the peculiar wooden houses and resorts on the slopes. The misty atmosphere, the pleasant weather, the quiet surroundings, completely secluded from the hassle and bustle of the city life, nothing less than a paradise. Place where, what you feel is music in the air, what you like is good food and little encounters and exchange of smiles wth the locals and what you enjoy is the beauty of the nature.
This dream village had its dedicated rail line with a good frequency. The internet speed was fantastic and it did have really good roads, schools and medical facilities as I was informed by few of the locals here. One of the major differences between this village in some remote corner of Switzerland and any village in India was although many of the Indian villages also exhibits similar natural beauty, they fail to provide the infrastructure and basic amenities, as probably their definition of basic amenity is still quite old.
After a day long journey again we just wanted to relax, have dinner and get ready for the next day excursion. The kitchen made us feel at home and we were soon at the dining table, admiring the resort and planning for the next day.