Whether it’s the tranquil waters of Lake Geneva or the picturesque rural landscapes stretching as far as the eye can see, there’s something about Switzerland’s French-speaking west that immediately leaves you feeling calm and relaxed. No wonder then, that the Lake Geneva region is fast becoming a top spot for jet-setters in need of a serious dose of R&R, with a healthy serving of wine and gastronomy thrown in for good measure.
The Lake Geneva, or Lemanic Region, stretches from the Montreux-Vevey Riviera and the picturesque UNESCO-listed vineyards of Lavaux, to the craggy peaks of the Vaud Alps – all accessible within a few hours of Geneva Airport. But of all the pretty spots to choose from, it is Montreux, a glamorous Riviera town that is the most popular, thanks to a winning combination of a mild climate, panoramic vistas and buzzing cultural scene. Statues of famous residents, from Charlie Chaplin to Freddie Mercury, can be seen when strolling along the palm-fringed lakeside – and Queen’s old studio is now a site for music-loving pilgrimages. It’s not hard to see why they all fell in love with the place.
As well as Montreux’s unique musical heritage, celebrated at the annual summer Jazz Festival, the surrounding Lavaux and its vineyards are a big draw for visitors. Hopping on an old paddle steamer is a great way to see the sights from the water, and, as we discovered, just as good for hopping between vineyards. One such producer is Melanie Weber, who produces a range of Chasselas and Pinot Noir wines and is one of the few to produce wine using a traditional basket press.
Not far away is the Mirador Kempinski Hotel, perched high above Montreux, where we stayed. Its luxury Givenchy spa – only one of four worldwide – is as light and airy as possible, while the views from its restaurant Au Chalet were truly sensational. But while Montreux and its vineyards are perfect for city slickers, for those in need of a more rustic break, the Alpine haven of Villars-sur-Ollon, high up in the Vaud Alps, is perfect.
Surrounded by pretty Alpine meadows was our hotel, the RoyAlp & Spa, a chocolate-box-pretty chalet-style hotel that pairs luxury with cosy comfort. Lovely though it is, the mountains themselves are the real draw and we worked up an appetite while exploring them on the many hiking trails that criss-cross their flanks. In the tiny hamlet of Solalex, a solution to our rumbling stomachs appeared in the form of the Restaurant du Miroir de l’Argentine. Run by the Jaggi family and decked out in traditional Swiss style, the menu is definitely one for hearty appetites, with the beef fillet and buttery potato rosti proving utterly delicious after a day of exploring the surrounding countryside.
Before heading back to Geneva, we travelled a little further up into the mountains to Alpine pass Col de la Crois at 1,800m to visit a local cheese farm for breakfast, where we tucked into the farm’s very own Etivaz cheese. The idyllic setting of rolling hills and alpine meadows, with only the cows and the farm’s friendly dog for company, was Alpine escapism at its very best (and enough to get me Googling Swiss citizenship). With all that to offer, small wonder that I, like many a jetsetter before me, will be returning to the Lake Geneva region time and time again.
NEED TO KNOW…
Flights to Geneva with SWISS start at £79 return with hand luggage only and £119 with. See swiss.com for more information and to book. Travel by train with the all-inclusive Swiss Travel System starts at £96 for a three-day pass. For more on Switzerland and the Lake Geneva region, see www.lake-geneva-region.ch and www.myswitzerland.com