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Switzerland/France trip planning for late August/September 2022

My husband and I are in the planning stages for a trip in 2022. We went to France in 2019 and spent time in Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Cap Ferrat, Monaco, Provence and Paris. We loved the French Riviera and thoroughly enjoyed staying at The Welcome Hotel which had been recommended by RS in his guidebook. My husband has said many time that he would go back there in a minute. So we are considering doing just that, but combine that with Switzerland, Chamonix, Annecy, Lyon as well as go to some of the places in the French Riviera that we didn't have time to do last time. We like to walk all over, tour castles and other beautiful architecture, light hiking (2-3 hours max round trip, we are going to be 69 and 70 by the time we do this trip!), river & lake boat rides, various tours, some of the gondolas we would have the opportunity to do and just people watching while having a few cocktails (I am a wine lover) and have a nice dinner. One other thing to note: My husband doesn't care for heights although he does fine with driving in the mountains, hot air balloons and gondolas. So his discomfort is more from walking along a drop-off or too near a drop-off. He has driven Trail Ridge Road in RMNP, Going to the Sun Road in Glacier, etc. so as long as he is holding on to the steering wheel he is ok. We also live in New Mexico at 4000 plus elevation.
Here is what I have come up with so far:
Day 1 This is actually Day 2 of the trip because of flight: Fly into Geneva. Take the train to Lausanne and check into a hotel there. Explore Lausanne the rest of the day and evening until we need to go to bed!

Day 2: Take train to Chateau de Chillon. There are also ways to go there by boat and we may want to do something where we can enjoy being on Lake Geneva anyway. There is a 15 minute boat ride from Montreux. We could also explore Montreux the same day.

Day 3: Chocolate Train, includes Gruyere cheese factory and village.
Day 4, 5, 6: Lauterbrunnen -3 hours by train, we will decide later whether to stay in Lauterbrunnen, Wengen or Murren; lots of good forum contributors on that subject!

Day 7, 8, 9: Take train from Lauterbrunnen to Chambrey and rent a car. Train takes 6 hours. We will probably stay in Annecy for 2 nights since it is in between Chambrey and Chamonix and do a day trip to Chamonix. We may stay the 3rd night in Chambrey so we can return rental car and take an early train to Lyon.
Day 10 & 11: Take train from Chambrey to Lyon. 2 hours and 20 minutes. Spend the rest of the day exploring Lyon. Day 11 we could take one of the Viator vineyard tours and do some wine tasting.
Day 12: Take train from Lyon to Nice: 4 hours. At Nice we would have to transfer to the train to get to Villefranche sur Mer and then walk to Welcome Hotel. The train station at Villefranche is a brisk 10-15 minute walk from the hotel which we did many times in 2019 with and without luggage.
Day 13: Eze: We didn't have time to devote to this in 2019 because getting to and from there seemed a little tricky and could take some time. So we are devoting a whole day to this although we may not need that.
Day 14: Nice, Old Town area and train to points West if we decide we want to go to Antibes. Any info or opinions on Antibes or areas West of Nice would be helpful.
Day 15: Menton? This village intrigues me so I would like to know if others have been there and what you thought of it.
Day 16: fly home
Thanks for your opinions, advice and tips!

Posted by
2102 posts

Hi!
A few comments:
- For days 1-3, Lausanne is fine but Vevey would make a more charming and more central base.
- not sure I would dedicate day 3 to the chocolate train and Gruyere, but then I've seen plenty of cheese making and chocolate making before. I would rather allocate that day to the Lauterbrunnen area.
- be sure to take Golden Pass railway from Montreux to Interlaken (for Lauterbrunnen)

Days 7-8-9: Chambéry is really not a good base, there is very little of note for tourists with limited time.
It will be far, far more convenient to do
- Day 7: train Lauterbrunnen to Chamonix (via Brig and Martigny), stay in Chamonix
- Day 8: Chamonix
- Day 9: bus to Annecy, stay in Annecy
- Day 10: train to Lyon.
A car is unnecessary. The interesting part of Annecy is very, very small and a night there is enough in my opinion!

Day 11: if you do a vineyard tour then you have little time for Lyon itself.

Day 12-16: I can't help as much, except by saying that I have fond memories of Menton; I went ages ago but it left a mark!

Posted by
181 posts

Thank you Balso, I will definitely delve into all of your suggestions. We would probably be just fine with not having to rent a car as well so I really like your ideas to stick with all trains and other forms of transport.

Posted by
181 posts

Balso, a couple questions based on your advice: I don't really care about the chocolate and cheese factory experience much, I think I was intrigued by the village of Gruyere, the French countryside and eating lots of chocolate and cheese! But we would probably be experiencing those while in the Lake Geneva area and the Lauterbrunnen area anyway, am I correct?

Does the train go directly from Annecy to Lyon and is it TVG, so a fairly quick trip? How complicated is bus transportation with luggage from Chamonix to Annecy?

I am thinking we might want to consider giving the extra day to Lyon instead of the chocolate train.
Thanks!

Posted by
2102 posts

Regarding your additional questions:
- for chocolate I don't know, but yes there will be herds of cows and areas of "pastoral" landscape in and around the Lauterbrunnen valley. I don't know if there is a place where you can see the cheese making process, though.
- Annecy to Lyon is a direct, 90-minute train journey
- I never took that bus from Chamonix to Annecy but these are intercity buses with tons of luggage space
- it is the train from Lauterbrunnen to Chamonix which is fairly complicated, in full transparency, but transfers in Switzerland are well-timed and the hassle is minimal.

Posted by
181 posts

Thanks again Balso. I did look the Lauterbrunnen to Chamonix train trip on Google Maps and it is intimidating! I appreciate your encouraging words that maybe it isn't as difficult as it looks!

Posted by
2102 posts

Lauterbrunnen to Chamonix does look bad with all these connections, but the stations involved are small (except Interlaken) and if you happen to miss a train, you can take the next one.

Posted by
18741 posts

Annecy was extraordinarily full of tourists in the daytime on a weekday in June 2017, so it's not a place I'd want to stay longer than necessary to see what I wanted to see in the area. It was also considerably hotter than I expected (research failure on my part--being able to see mountains is not the same as being in the mountains). I would want to have time for at least a boat ride on the lake and to walk around the historic center (which is where all the other visitors will be).

I think your original plan is seriously short of time in Lyon. Lyon is a large city with many interesting sites. Be sure to dig into a comprehensive guidebook before pinning down how much time you'll want to have there.

Antibes is definitely a worthwhile stop. I liked the Picasso Museum. If you're not a fan I'd still say Antibes is worth visiting.

I also enjoyed Menton, but the medieval center does get a lot of tourists, based on my visit on a Wednesday in mid-May. It was quite crowded even at that time of year; I believe it's very popular with folks from the UK. Menton doesn't feel at all like a village; it has a population of over 30,000. I do recommend Menton; I just don't want you to be disappointed. I especially liked it for its two hillside gardens (no scary drop-offs). They're out of the center in different directions--though one is reasonably near the town's second train station, so you'd need to research buses or plan for a taxi.

I haven't been to Eze, but I think it won't be too complicated; it's just a matter of taking a bus from Nice. That's how I got to St-Paul-de-Vence and the only issue was checking ahead of time on the bus departure point. They've changed bus arrangements in Nice since my time there; there's now a sort of bus station, though without some services one would normally expect. That link has some useful information for you. Bus service to Eze is provided by Lignes d'Azur.

Posted by
144 posts

I would encourage you to keep Annecy on your itinerary. It is far more charming a town than Chamonix. You would have the option of arriving later in the day if you need extra time in Chamonix due to weather (if you would have lousy weather upon arrival and blue skies on departure day). The cable car to Mont Blanc is extraordinary if you have clear weather. Many visitors to Annecy are day trippers and it is more peaceful in the evening. We had the memory of a lifetime dancing to traditional French songs under festive lights to an accordion band by the lake. It was magical.

Posted by
181 posts

Schteffi, that sounds wonderful. I love accordion and I am a professional pianist so always looking for the musical experience.

Posted by
882 posts

Gruyeres is fun but very touristy. Montreux has a beautiful lakefront promenade and Chillon is close by. The Lauterbrunnen Valley is fabulous - we stayed in Wengen and encourage you to stay up on the mountain in either W or Murren. That's all I've got - enjoy your trip!