Montreux Old Town and Rochers de Naye
Montreux’s fascinating old town is located above the newer city and worth visiting. Old winegrower’s houses lines the streets – visit the Maison Visinand – a cultural centre and the 15th-century St Vincent’s Church, dedicated to the patron saint of winegrowers. Enjoy stunning views of Lake Geneva from this elevated place of calm.
For an even loftier vantage point, take the 58-minute cog train from Montreux up to Rochers de Naye. You’ll climb 1,600m through fields, farms and forests to an altitude of 2,000m and stunning views. There are a couple of restaurants here too: the panoramic Plein Roc and the Alpin. From Rochers de Naye continue on the train to Haut-de-Caux for more jaw-dropping Alpine scenery.
Montreux to Chur via Brig on the Glacier Express
Our final journey on our Grand Tour of Switzerland covers the cross-country route from lakeside Montreux across the Alps towards German-speaking Chur in the east. We are travelling part of the way on the iconic Glacier Express – truly a window to the Swiss Alps – which made its inaugural trip from Zermatt to St Moritz in 1930.
Leaving Montreux we pass the towers of Château de Chillon and follow the River Rhône as it winds its way to Sion, Sierre, Visp and Brig. We change trains at Brig and step into ultimate luxury onboard the Glacier Express Excellence Class.
I’ve travelled on some amazing trains but the Excellence Class is out of this world. New for 2019, imagine two exclusive carriages: spacious comfy leather and fabric armchairs – all fully electronically adjustable – single seaters facing each other over stylish wooden tables. iPad and headphones are fully loaded with info on the trip, alongside menu stands, and a large TV showing our route. Flooring is gorgeous hand-tufted Tisca carpet alongside solid walnut and Alpine quartzite giving a warm and sophisticated vibe. The refinement continues into the snazzy bar area. Look up and you’ll see an extraordinary oversized compass above you.
But it’s the giant 45m² panoramic windows and glass ceiling on the Excellence Class that give travellers such amazing views of the passing Swiss Alps. Even the loo has an interior design that wouldn’t be out of place in a chic hotel.
Glacier Express Silver Service
Our delicious five-course menu is silver service, with authentic Swiss fare and produce. We enjoy an intriguing amuse bouche, followed by pea and mint soup which leads into the main course of Swiss filet of beef, truffle and potato mash, buttered carrots and mountain jus. The veggie option is a delicious lasagne. The cheeseboard contains some of Switzerland’s finest, followed by a warm Glacier Express chocolate cake with vanilla cream and roasted almonds. Keeping the provenance local and fresh is the hallmark of the Glacier Express Excellence Class, so coffee is courtesy of Europe’s highest-lying roasting house – Badilatti in Zuoz – while the house Valais wine hails from the Z’Brun family in Salgesch.
Andermatt and the Oberalppass
Our route from Brig follows the River Rotton as we climb and climb towards Gletsch and the Furka Pass near Andermatt the luxurious Chedi Andermatt hotel within waving distance as we ascend further into a blindingly beautiful snow-white magical. Spring is late to the Alps this year and there’s an abundance of snow in the Oberalppass – we’re at a lofty 2,033m above sea level here. In summer trout fishing in the Oberalp Lake is a popular pastime. When we pass by, the lake is frozen solid.
All too soon the landscape changes as we make our descent into Chur: white becomes green as fields and farms come into view. Habitation again and our destination reached. That’s the bittersweet beauty of train travel – you never want it to end. The excitement is in the journey and the joy of moving through the indescribably beautiful landscapes in the Swiss Alps is life-affirming. The Glacier Express Excellence Class provides a truly luxurious window onto the Alps in superb style and comfort.