A place of beauty that extends across the north and south side of the Alps in west-central Europe, Switzerland encompasses a great diversity of landscapes and climates on a limited area of 41,285 square kilometres. It is unusual in the sense that it comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian and Romansh in a relatively small area.
My travels took me to Ferney-Voltaire in eastern France, a commune in the Ain department which lies between the Jura mountains and the Swiss border and forms part of the metropolitan area of Geneva. My hotel was just 5 minutes walk from the Swiss border and allowed me easy access to transportation that would take me into Geneva. Within 15 minutes I was able to board a tram at Meyrin that would take me straight into the heart of Geneva, the journey took no longer than 10 minutes. I was really impressed with the trams, not only did they run on time but they were also in a good state of repair and were clean, something that can not always be said about transportation in the U.K.
Geneva is definitely one of my favourite cities in Switzerland, despite the fact that it is not very big in size and is known as “the smallest of big cities”, it somehow feels spacious and not overcrowded like some cities do. I took this opportunity to take a few photos, even though my hands were frozen and I did not want to take them out of my lovely warm pockets. I shall remember in future to pack my gloves with me if I visit Switzerland in the month of February.
This was the second time that I had visited Geneva but I was able to view it through different eyes, as the first time I visited was during the summer months and the city has a completely different feel at this time of year. Gone was the greenery and the vast array of flowers that colour the city over the course of summer, like those at L’horloge fleurie and instead there were bare trees and cold bitter winds but somehow the city still seems to hold a sense of charm. It was lovely to see all of the swans and other birds dwelling in Le Rhône just off Lac Léman. I only spent a short time here in Geneva but it was definitely time well spent.
The following day I had planned to travel to Lausanne which is located 62 kilometres (38.5 miles) northeast of Geneva. Lausanne is the second-largest city on Lake Geneva and is the lively capital of the canton of Vaud. I was looking forward to this visit, as Lausanne was a place that I had not visited before. The “Old Town” Lausanne is extremely picturesque and is largely car free, which is ideal if you are a pedestrian. Compared to Geneva, I found Lausanne to be busier and less spacious and at times reminded me of London, UK. The pace of life seemed to be much quicker here and the fact that it had a Metro system gave it more of a “London” feel. The Old Town is home to the Notre-Dame Cathedral which dates back to the 12th Century. The Cathedral is impressive not only on the outside but also inside and there are some great views of the city to be found here.
Just a short walk away (maybe 20-30 minutes) there was a chance to escape from it all and I found myself a place of peace and tranquility. I visited Lac de Sauvabelin, an artificial lake in the Sauvabelin forest, above Lausanne which started construction in 1888. As well as the lake there is also a petting zoo which was a pleasant surprise and better still it was free of charge. I especially loved it here as I like the peace and quiet and I have a great fondness for animals. A great way for me to spend the afternoon before heading back into the hustle and bustle of the city.
Lac de Sauvabelin
Before heading back into the city I took the opportunity to climb the the Tour de Sauvabelin (Tower of Sauvabelin) which is a wooden tower located in the Sauvabelin forest. The tower was constructed in 2003 and is 35 meters high and provides panoramic views of Lausanne, Lac Léman and the surrounding countryside and mountains. Well worth the climb.
Tour de Sauvabelin
Back in the city I also visited Port d’Ouchy which is a popular lakeside resort located south of the city at the edge of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman). I can imagine that in the summer months the port could get very busy but in February it was fairly subdued which made it a pleasure to visit. There are great views over the lake that look over to France (weather depending), unfortunately it was a little overcast during my visit but I could just make out the mountains on the other side. The Compagnie générale de navigation sur le Lac Léman or Lake Geneva General Navigation Company (commonly abbreviated to CGN) is a public Swiss company operating boats on Lake Geneva connecting towns in both France and Switzerland including Geneva, Vevey, Montreux, Évian-les-Bains, and Lausanne. The boats can be seen at the Ouchy Port.
Ouchy was once a small fishing village which was incorporated into the city of Lausanne in the mid-19th century to serve as a port on Lac Léman. Today it is a popular place amongst skateboarders and roller skaters as well as tourists for its incredible views of the lake and the Alps.
I also managed to see the Château d’Ouchy (“Castle of Ouchy”), an old medieval castle that has since been converted into a hotel.
All in all I enjoyed my visit to Lausanne but my favourite part of the visit was to the Bois de Sauvabelin and I would urge anyone visiting Lausanne to pay a visit. My time away in Switzerland was brief but it was a nice break and I shall definitely miss the view from my hotel room.
I am looking forward to my next getaway in a few weeks when I travel to Gran Canaria, hopefully capturing some great images.
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