Lausanne and a cruise on the Leman Lake, Switzerland.

I have cousins who live in Geneva, and although I have visited them several times when I was younger, I have never felt the urge to visit Switzerland further away. Until I recently flew over the country at a relatively low height, which allowed me to see more of the country from above, a bit Yann Arthus-Bertrand style, and to fall in love with the beauty of all the green arrangements everywhere – outside of Geneva.

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Then, about two years ago, David – one of my best friends from China and my first French friend there when I started living the expat life – moved to Lausanne for work, and almost immediately invited me to come over for a visit. It took me some time to arrange this short trip, but both the perspective of seeing again my friend after many years and the self-created opportunity of boat-cruising over the Leman lake from Geneva to Lausanne triggered my decision to finally go and travel to Switzerland.

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Lausanne – Old Town point of interest

From Nice, the easiest cheapest and fastest way to reach Switzerland is to fly to Geneva. Forty-five minutes in the air, an average of 70 euros for a return ticket if booked about 7 weeks in advance, and a super easy transportation system to reach downtown Geneva or other cities like Lausanne within minutes through regional express trains from the airport.

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Railways along the coast, and the Simplon cruising to the next town

And so, on a Saturday morning of June, I took the first flight to Geneva-Cointrin. Arrived on time, I took an express train to Geneva-Cornavin, the main train station downtown, and walked down the Rue du Mont-Blanc towards the Leman Lake. Super easy. Instead of taking the 55 minutes train from the airport to Lausanne, I had in fact pre-booked a three and a half hour ferry cruise to reach my final destination, and taking this boat needed a little pre-organization in regards to my arrival and the little time I had for the transfer from the airport by train to downtown where the ferry departs.

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This great local attraction allowed me to start my sightseeing experience in a very nice way. The cruise on the Leman Lake consists in a ride on the Simplon, an old-fashion ferry that has been operating since 1915. A bar and a restaurant are opened during the cruise, but it is allowed to bring your own food and drinks. The ferry makes several stops along the way, and if people are mostly hopping on, a lot of them are hopping off in the small medieval town of Yvoire on the French side of the lake. I guess tourists continue their journey with the next boat later the same day. Ideal destination for a half day trip.

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The stunning village of Yvoire on the French side of lake Leman – Southern shore facing North

Along the way, sights of the lake are stunning. Manors, castles, vineyards, flower displays along the piers, luxury hotels on the front shores and the Mont Blanc in the near background, all of these make of this cruise on the Leman a wonderful and relaxing experience for the eyes. So much beauty and peace in the Western world are a rare thing, I believe.

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Manor on the Leman lake that I could totally live in!
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The Mont-Blanc and its eternal snow – 4817 meters high

And to finish my journey, the arrival in Lausanne is beautiful, with the hotel Chateau d’Ouchy being one of the first buildings that can be admired once you set foot on solid ground.

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Château d’Ouchy in Lausanne

I reached Lausanne in the beginning of the afternoon. After a late brunch with David to reconnect, we headed to the local train station and rode to the neighbor small village of Lavaux, over the Leman lake and along the Swiss Alps. Lavaux has recently been rewarded as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its incredible vineyard terraces and its outstanding contribution to the local economy since the 11th century! Now I know why!! We walked along a natural pathway within the vineyards, with stunning views over the lake and the mountains, took pictures, sat for a while, chatted, and simply enjoyed each other’s company in such an environment where the beauty of Nature was ruling over us.

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Slow walking in Lavaux vineyards
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Lavaux terraced vineyards
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View from Lavaux’s vineyards over the lake Leman

We hopped on the express train back to Lausanne, and began exploring the city. At this time of the year, the sun doesn’t set before 10pm, so we had plenty of time ahead of us for more sightseeing. As David explained very well, Lausanne is built and organized over several levels, from the lake embankments of Ouchy district filled with luxury hotels and parks, up to the old town on the hills with its monuments and cathedrals, and with the trendy Quartier du Flon in between, full of new style cafés and restaurants.

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Trendy bar set under the arcades of one of the main bridges in midtown Lausanne
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Mixing architectural styles, just above modern Quartier du Flon

Lausanne is a city of art and culture. The town is super clean (well, this is Switzerland, you know…), people are respectful of each other – and of everything in fact, they all seem healthy and educated… I know it sounds like paradise-city when I talk about it like this, but don’t be fooled, the climate is far from easy, and according to David it can be hard to adapt to living a life at a very slow pace with only a little number of public events throughout the year.

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Lausanne Old Town – view from atop

At night, we joined an outdoor event organized by the city in the Parc de l’Elysée to promote photography, short-filming and other visual arts, with an amazing view over the lake (again). On my second day in Lausanne, I decided to take a walk by myself and go back to this park in order to see the view during daytime and take pictures. While walking down the park, just before reaching the Ouchy embankments, I stopped at the Lausanne Olympic Museum – as I am an absolute fan of the Olympics in general.

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Lausanne Olympic Museum and Park

After a long stroll in Lausanne and a quick ride on the metro in order to avoid climbing up the exhausting hill of the old town area, it was already time to say goodbye to my friend and take the train back to Geneva to catch my flight.

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The only thing I brought back to France from this short trip was a generous piece of grade-A Gruyère, the famous and delicious Swiss cheese, that David had bought in an organic farm nearby. I found out on the way that my flight had been cancelled, so I reached out to my cousins in Geneva and spent the night with them before I flew back to Nice on a super early Monday morning flight. I loved my weekend and all I got to discover in such a short time!!! Highly recommended short trip!

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Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi. © 2018 All Rights Reserved. 

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