A Swiss railway adventure

Basel

Turfed off the Scenic Opal at 0900 and delivered to nice Hotel Victoria next to the Hauptbahnhof (Train station and an essential part of my vocabulary for the next week). Checked in and headed out for a wander through the old town. Cathedrals, Rathaus, museums etc

General “heads up” WordPress have shuffled my photos over the last few days so some may be attributed to the wrong cities ! Apologies but you will get the idea……

Zurich

Train from Basel to Zurich. Same deal – nice hotel by the train station. Checked in and went for a wander through the old town and down to the Lake.

Lots of shops selling weed. Not as prevalent as Amsterdam but definitely in the air !!

Lucerne

2 days in Lucerne – a real gem and one of the highlights of my trip so far. Old wooden bridges and frescoes everywhere. It doesn’t get more Swiss than this. Chocolate and Swiss Army knives everywhere and Watch shops of course. Very lively, huge lake and surrounded by mountains. Altogether very quaint. Starting to get wintry and dead sheep on all the café chairs. Also some very healthy cows in the centre of town. Very lush grass everywhere. Makes a change from parched and scorched Spain. Fuck me Switzerland is expensive !!!

Day 2 headed for the mountains. Mt Pilates to be specific. A 90 minute boat ride across the lake followed by the steepest and longest rack railway in the world. Blessed with a sunny day. Lots of snow and ice at the top but amazing views over the lake and Alps. Chap with a flugelhorn and a girl with a crow on her head!?!

A series of gondolas down followed by a bus back into Lucerne. Lots of thrill seekers – zip lining etc on the way down…. Not for me I might add !!

Interlaken and the Jungfraujoch

Panoramic train from Lucerne to Interlaken. Spectacular views as we skirted the several large lakes along the way. Slightly bizarre hotel but quite adequate and very close to the train station. Went for a wander around the town and took very steep funicular railway to a good vantage point above the town. Had lunch up there and then came down again.

Heading for the summit of the Jungfraujoch tomorrow which is a tad higher than the Eiger ! Multiple trains and gondolas to get there and back. An all day adventure……

Montreaux

Finally getting the hang of this Selfie lark …..

Another train from Interlaken to Montreux. Arrived at my lakeside hotel just in time to get a boat to the Chateaux de Chillon. A serious castle build onto the bedrock on the edge of Lake |Geneva. Much fought over my the Savoyard, Bernese and Vaudoise as far back as the 11th century. In remakably good nick and full of historical anecdotes and the inspiration for Byrons ” The Prisoner of Chillon”. A spot of lunch, a tour of the castle and back on the boat to Montreux

A statue of Freddie on the lakeshore as Montreux was his second home…….

Geneva and home via Paris

Am early start from Montreux and just as I was about to sing the praises of the Swiss Railway system, the train that was taking me to Geneva broke down as we came into Lausanne station. However a replacement was rapidly found which took me too the airport for my flight to Paris and a 3 hour stopover before proceeding to Malaga. No Wi-Fi in the Air France lounge – Grrrr which is why this “post” has had to wait until I got home and settled before being posted.

Cruising up The Rhine towards Basel

Claire & Lar – my new Irish pals

Cologne

Moored in Cologne but didn’t see much of the city as had opted to go visit Drachenburg Castle, Access via an old and quaint rack railway. The castle was a bit 19th century repro and very limited access as they were preparing for a movie shoot. Trussing, lights and tripods all over the place. A tour guide who didn’t draw breath on the bus. Another 10 minutes of his psycho babble and I might have had to intervene!!! Cologne and it’s cathedral will have to wait until next year’s trip down The Danube.

Koblenz

A trip to Cochem down the very scenic Moselle River. Very steep vineyards. Great views of the river from Reischburg Castle. Still a bit repro but some old & original bits.

Back on board for lunch and then an afternoon cruising the Romantic Rhine passing a multitude of castles and ruins.

One of the highlights was supposedly Lorelei – many legends about damsel and mermaids luring sailors onto the rocks (The Neiberlungen etc). Basically just a large rocky promentory and somewhat of an anticlimax

Lorelei………

Heidelberg

A coach bound orientation tour of Heidelberg – one of the oldest University towns in Europe. Followed by a wander around the old town and cathedral etc

After a very early dinner the vast majority went off in all their finery for a Classical “concert” in a very smart Schloss. I opted out as one coach ride a day with babbling Americans is enough for me. Apparently the Schloss was very grand but the Concert wasn’t!!

Baden Baden

A walking tour of Baden Baden – a famous old spa town dating from Roman times. Now a hangout for wealthy celebs and oligarchs etc. Managed to stumble across a Faberge museum. Only one original egg but a fine collection of other jewelled masterpieces. A very fine slab of Black Forest Gateaux – massive but couldn’t resist!!

A lock or two on our way up river to Strasbourg – or at least the mooring that would be close to Strasbourg. At this point the river acts as the Franco/German border so France on the right and Germany on the left.

Strasbourg

Coach ride to Strasbourg – Pretty dull until we got into the old town – which was fabulous and very picturesque…

A gobsmacking Cathedral. Unfortunately being Sunday we could not get inside, so interior shots are again courtesy of the Internet. Managed to find an excellent museum and a charming French girl who gave me a private tour of the archives with original 12th century plans and “blueprints” etc. How they managed without Autocad is a mystery…. – No photos allowed unfortunately

A statue of Albert Swietzer and an obligatory dog shot

Basel and the start of my Swiss railway adventure

Docked outside Basel and turfed of the ship at dawn – a few fond fairwells with Claire and Lar and a very nice Mexican couple but glad to see the back of the noisy US and Canadian contingents!!

Very efficient and painless transfer to hotel and early checkin. So have updated this post and will publish while I have excellent WiFi access.

A wander around old Basel planned for this afternoon before a train to Zurich tomorrow morning and the start of my Swiss railway and mountain adventure. Bracing myself for Snow and ice and maybe for shopping for thermals etc.

More later….. R

To soggy Amsterdam by train via Paris then Scenic Opal for a spot of Rhine cruising

Very comfortable train ride from Bordeaux to Paris Montparnasse. Horrendous queue for Taxis due to rain. Made it across Paris just in time for connecting train to Amsterdam. My trusty Tumi suitcase shed a wheel at Gare du Nord so Sunday morning involved buying new suitcase and a repack. Pissing down with rain but did some sightseeing and a long walk to Rijksmuseum for lunch and an overdose of Rembrants etc.

The Night Watch undergoing some major high tech restoration to restore it to its former glory and replace some of the bits that were trimmed off to allow it to fit though the door back in the old days.

One of the problems with Amsterdam and Sat nav is there is always a canal between you and where you need to go. Major protest march going on – 10s of thousands of angry stoned Dutch people clogging (No pun Intended) the streets marching and singing “Brick 2” or “We don’t need no Education” to most of you. Very surreal!!!! And the whole city stinks of weed!!!

Back to the hotel and after some research found an excellent Indonesian restaurant for dinner.

Checked in and embarked onto Scenic Opal – Home for the next week as we cruise down the Rhine to Basel. Dropped off my bags and went walkabout before meeting my fellow tavellers. 48 on board – mainly Americans & Canadians. I am the only Brit on board so targeted, bonded & dined with an Irish couple as we are seriously outnumbered here

Dropped by the main/old cathedral. Not a crucifix, miserable Mary or bleeding saint in site. Then that’s Protestants for you!!! No gilt/guilt overload either!!!

Amsterdam coach and canal cruise the next morning before heading upstream to Cologne and beyond.

Headed out of Amsterdam through a rainbow for overnight sailing to Cologne

Then through our first lock – the first of several I expect….. A tight squeeze with other boats and barges

Coming up next Cologne and the first of many castles etc…..

“Beautiful Bordeaux” and a week of Villages, Chateaux, & obligatory wine tastings

Not a lot of long distance cruising involved here as I don’t think that we have ever been more than 60km from Bordeaux. However a thorough exploration of the lower reaches of the Dordogne & Garonne rivers and the Gironde Estuary into which they flow. I have teamed up with two charming “old school” English couples for dining and excursions etc.

Johnny & Sarah, Brian & Carole and Moi

The next few days involved visits to various Villages and Chateaux. Photos may be a bit muddled but you should get the general idea. Medieval Villages, Miles of grapes on vines (harvest about to start), Grapes into vats for fermentation, then into barrels for aging and bottles for drinking. Some of the finest “brands” in the Medoc and Sauterne regions including Chateaux Laffite Rothes child, St Emilion, Chateau d’Yquem etc. You get the idea….

A visit to Roquetaillade – an amazing castle which has been lived in by the same family for over 700 years. Our guide was a very informative and wise cracking Brit in a beret. When I asked him what a “Brit in Beret” was doing as a tour guide in a French Chateau I got a somewhat evasive answer about the Brits having been in the area for centuries. Later learned that he was the owner and descended from when We ran the region! Whoops……..

A day trip to Arcachon where the oysters come from. A huge lagoon between the Gironde and the Atlantic. A great market. Only saw a bit of the old town which must have been spectacular in the 1920s & 30s. A few fragments remain but now a seafront of rather tired 70s apartment blocks. Spectacular beach and some interesting “art”.