Blogs Trips and Excursions

Teacher Blog: Surval Tour of Switzerland

24 September 2018

A Feast for the Senses –

Our Grand Tour of Switzerland

They say that if you don’t like the weather in the mountains, just wait five minutes. Alternatively, as we discovered on the first day of Surval’s Swiss Tour, you can just cross to the other side…   

As we drove through the cantons of Vaud and Valais, on “our” side of the majestic Nufenen Pass, the skies were still heavy with the clouds that had dropped heavy rain that morning; yet, as we swung into the first of the zigzag of hairpin bends on our descent into the Ticino’s Bedretto Valley (after a stop for a fun photo-shoot at the top of the Pass), the clouds dispersed into an endless expanse of blue; and, by the time the bus was cruising through the streets of Lugano, the lake was a shimmering turquoise and the clusters of villages clinging to the mountain side were bathed in golden light.

Our hotel, with its gilt framed oil paintings, scrolled chairs upholstered in tapestry, and a black grand piano gleaming under a twinkling chandelier, was redolent of a bygone era; and our first stroll through the town in the balmy evening air evoked the same sense of history and romance and stately Swiss-Italian grandeur – first, along the avenue of ancient plane trees that line the lake; past the Art Deco Lido, where Lugano locals lay in colourful sun-loungers on the deck, basking in the still-warm sun; next, through the immaculate paved streets of the town centre, past watch shops and designer boutiques and bustling cafes; then, finally, the pièce de résistance – a gelato shop boasting ice-cream in every flavour from Nutella to Tiramisu! 

Saturday morning dawned gloriously clear and sunny – perfect weather for our trip to the top of Monte San Salvatore. We glided up its steep sides in a red funicular, then scrambled up old stone steps to the viewing point at its peak, where we stood and gazed down at the blue lake swirling its way through green mountain valleys – and, of course, snapped a few selfies!

It wouldn’t be a trip to Italian Switzerland without sampling some local pasta, and what better way than to make our own? – Saturday evening was spent learning the art of preparing fresh pasta; first, making the dough; next, carefully drawing it through rollers to flatten it; and then using a cutting machine to turn it into tagliatelle…yum!

Our new adage of “if you don’t like the weather on one side of the mountain pass, cross to the other side” proved appropriate again on Sunday morning; Lugano was grey and drizzly as we boarded the bus to Lucerne, but when we emerged on the Lucerne side of the Gotthard tunnel, it was once again to blazing sunshine – ideal for another trip to the top of a majestic Alpine peak: this time, the mighty Mount Pilatus.

Our first sighting of Lucerne was thus from the heights of a mountain; in the afternoon, it was time to discover it on foot. We had a few hours of free time to wander the beautiful old town – to cross Lucerne’s iconic wooden bridge; to gaze at the grand Baroque architecture of the Jesuit Church; and to drink hot chocolate at a lakeside café. Some of the girls quietly entered a church where a Mass was taking place; and stood listening to the hymns and marvelling at the lovely pale pink painted walls. After a delicious dinner in Lucerne (the saffron and prosecco risotto with grilled prawns would be reason enough to return!), we walked back to the hotel, crossing a bridge lit by old-fashioned street lamps, the dark waters of the lake dancing with the reflections of the light.

The whole trip had been a feast for our senses, and the final outing, a cruise on a paddle steamer from Lucerne to the small lakeside town of Vitznau, was no exception. As we stood on the wooden deck gazing up at the mountains we had driven through and looked down from, the sun was warm enough on our faces for the lake breeze to be a welcome caress. Lake Lucerne glowed aquamarine in the golden Autumnal light, scarlet Swiss flags fluttered from the town’s buildings and – happily – we were able to buy ice-creams on board! – a perfect ending to a weekend exploring the stunning country we are so lucky to be living in.