Train Holiday Memoirs – A Planet Rail Customer’s Account of their Train Holiday to Switzerland & Italy by Rail Part 16

October 10, 2014

I had requested some free time this morning. As it was damp again we decided to check out the pool.

And what a treat the pool here is. It is dark with mood lighting and gentle music, the floor of the pool is like sand with starfish and shell embedded into it and it was warm enough not to get that yikes feeling as your tender parts hit the water.

It was also full of buttons to press and various water features but sadly the huge thunder cloud above did not work. We swam for ages and I particularly enjoyed the jet of water which could propel me almost to the end of the pool.

Hotel Regina Palace, Stresa – swimming pool

The sun almost came out so we took a ferry to Isola Bella and looked at the rather too ornate (for my liking)  gardens there.

We also went into the villa which is very beautiful with its views from most windows across the lake – it’s clear that they certainly knew where to build their houses in those days.

Isola Bella

Isola Bella garden

Isola Bella garden

Lunch in the garden’s cafe was most enjoyable and Mel discovered a local beer which he really enjoyed.

A reviving massage, another swim, a walk in the now pouring rain for dinner and that was Stresa.

There were more people around yesterday but my lasting impression of here will be of the dearth of visitors. I wonder when the season ends here and do all the hotels close for the winter?

Tomorrow is an early start and a two hour trip to Montreaux.

October 12, 2014

Our last full day! It inevitably started dull and damp but just got better all day.

We walked along the promenade all the way to the Chateau de Chillon and the whole way we adored the beautiful flower borders and lush vegetation.

Although it was after 10 we were the only ones around and wondered if they sleep late here or has the holiday season finished?

It was beautiful if a little eerie…

Montreux Promenade

The Chateau is absolutely stunning as it sits on a little island at the side of the lake and it looked even better as the wonderful old paddle steamer slid gently into view.

It looked so nice we decided to take it to the next stop.

Chateau Chillon, Montreux with PS Vevey approaching

Once on board the Vevey we knew that 10 minutes was not long enough to appreciate its beauty so we decided to go out again later.

Whilst we were looking round I asked the maitre’d what time he finished serving expecting him to say about 3pm. Inevitably his response was:

“We have finished,”

“But it is only 1pm.” I replied.

“What do you want?”

I knew when I was beaten.  What a missed opportunity for them as even though the boat was quiet I am sure lots of people would have had lunch if it were available.

PS Vevey dining room – not available on our cruise!!

We bought first class tickets which allows you upstairs where there are deck chairs outside (which we used to our great delight) and a smart looking bar.

We were looking forward to a light lunch there  but once again we were unlucky.

I asked what food they had to offer and she pointed to the crisps and the croissants:

“Those or those.”

Charming.  She obviously missed out the customer service module in her training.

PS Vevey 1st class bar

Despite that we loved our two hour trip on the lake as the weather was better and we soaked up the sun from our chairs and watched as the mountain tops came into view.

We admired the giant paddles and I reminisced about days on the Clyde steamers with my family.

PS Vevey paddles

The boat was immaculate from top to bottom and even the toilets past my strict criteria. In fact Switzerland has been as squeaky clean as we had been led to believe. Alas there is still the graffiti – and that is another matter.

PS Vevey wheelhouse and 1st class deck lounge

PS Vevey staircase to 1st class deck.

So it is our last night and we finished in good style, albeit accidentally.

We were looking for a restaurant in the old town of Montreux when we chanced on a little jazz bar. It was dark and empty apart from one couple and we admit it looked intimidating but we decided to give it a go.

Ancienne Poste jazz bar, Montreux old town

An Argentinian band were due to start playing, so we bought a bottle of wine and the only snacks they could offer us (we’ve not had much luck with food today.)

Luckily a few more turned up as we were beginning to wonder if we had found ourselves in the wrong sort of club.

Ancienne Poste jazz bar – Argentinian band – Montreux old town

The band were good, especially the drummer and the guitarist and the double bass player had the longest fingers we have ever seen.

The leader of the band was a flautist and I must say once you have heard one or two songs with a flute as lead they all gel into one.  I longed for the solos of guitar or drums and quite honestly after two hours I could have killed off the band leader.

There was no charge for the night I was told when I asked in my broken French (this was the first place we had come across in Switzerland where they did not speak any English.)

At the end of the night there was a flat cap to put our contribution in.

By this time we were desperate to eat and we decided to get room service but lo and behold we had missed it by ten minutes.  And the bar food too.  Grrrr.

Our last day looks like having beautiful weather, our train is at 12.19 so we can enjoy a good part of it.

Sunrise over Lake Leman (or Geneva), Montreu.

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