Notes From The Road:
Over the years, I’ve been around the world (and then some) on two wheels with B&R, from our beloved Burgundy to places such as Portugal to Puglia, Japan, Morocco, and more. Recently, when I had the opportunity to make my way to Switzerland with some of our agency partners, this time by e-bike, I must admit that as an avid cyclist, this felt a bit like sacrilege!
A few thoughts that raced through my mind: would I spend my entire time zipping up Alpine passes wondering what could have been had I been nobly suffering on a road bike? For the first time on a B&R trip, would I feel as if I didn’t ‘earn my lunch’ from the effort? These notions quickly dissolved as my anticipation for visiting Switzerland began to ramp up, as sublime visions of Geneva and the Alps danced through my head.
It’s safe to say that every time I come back from a B&R trip, I fall in love with the place, but after having returned from this one, I have to say that B&R’s Switzerland e-biking trip tops them all. (And I’m not the only one: this trip has also received outside acclaim from National Geographic Traveler as a hand-picked ‘Tour of a Lifetime’).
Here are a few of the reasons why I love Switzerland, and why you should consider this trip your next one!
It’s All About the Scenery
I can’t say enough about the good looks of Switzerland. Every day, we were blessed with stunning 360-degree views—the Alpine giants are rarely out of sight. Guide Chris Litt, who has been lucky enough to guide this trip countless times, admitted to me: “Unlike on some trips where we really have to dial up the local culture and interest points for guests—the scenery in Switzerland does all the work for us.” It’s true—have you seen those landscapes on my Instagram feed?
A Typical Day In Paradise…
One of my favourite days started with a ride in the famous cheese-making town of Gruyères. Perched atop a hill, with stunning views of the agricultural land below, we ended up climbing higher and higher on narrow roads, winding through alpine huts dotted throughout the green. And what a climb it was!
As we arrived at lunch, Swiss musicians serenaded us over a cold beverage and one of the greatest panoramic views I’ve ever seen, with mountains and endless valleys below us. The air felt fresher than anything I’ve ever breathed, and the warm raclette we enjoyed for our meal topped the day off as one to remember.
Some of the Highlights…
Scenery & Sights Along the Way
There is plenty in Switzerland to savour on the slow road! We rode along Lac Leman (also known to non-locals as Lake Geneva) and the Rhône River in the shadow of the Alps. From elegant Vevey to Lausanne, we ride through undulating wine country, vineyards gently sloping down towards the grand lake.
From agricultural, relatively flat lands through Montreux and Aigle through grazing pastures (and plenty of spoiled Swiss cows), there’s a lot to take in. From tiny hamlets and towns, forested stretches, it was nothing but pure Swiss countryside. Life is good, I thought to myself.
As we cycled along the banks of the Rhône, we even came across the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) headquarters in Aigle, where we were lucky enough to witness the European Under-18 time trials in the velodrome. At the end of the day, we crossed Lake Geneva by steam-powered boat to our hotel for the night.
On a serious climbing day, the e-bikes proved their worth. Ascending up the Col du Pilon to visit a bona fide glacier—check ‘cycling to a glacier’ off the list—was a real ‘wow’ moment. A cable car took us to the summit, where we gawked at views that stretched all the way to (and beyond) Lake Geneva in one direction, and the famous Matterhorn on the other. Could it get any better?
Sophisticated Food & Wine
You won’t be disappointed with the culinary offerings beyond the amazing cheese and world-renowned chocolate. The food and wine is shockingly underrated, and upon arrival, you’ll discover just how sophisticated and unique Swiss gastronomical culture is. (I had no idea that Chasselas wine was so good! The Swiss sometimes keep the best things for themselves—this wine can only be enjoyed in the country of its origin).
Swiss Hospitality at its Finest
On one cloudy afternoon, we descended from the mountains to end up in stylish, tiny Gstaad, where we got caught in a strong (yet refreshing!) rain shower. As we arrived, soaked, at our hotel, we were greeted (with dry, fluffy towels in hand) by the staff—a welcome that we all deeply appreciated. As you can see, the culture of hospitality runs deep here.
The Swiss people are all so warm, kind and authentic and keen to show you the best of their country. The hotels here are also worth coming for, all of them classic, grand hotels with historic charm and modern amenities (like the incredible spa at the Bellevue Palace Hotel). Classic Swiss style, giving you a sense of place and comfort. (An important tip: just don’t be late! When in Switzerland, make like these masters of efficiency—and be sure to arrive early, or on time).
Keeping Tradition Alive: Swiss Sounds & Sabering Champagne
One evening, we visited a cheese grotto, where I tasted some of the most expensive cheeses I’ve ever had in my life. It’s here where I experienced my favourite memory of the trip: two alpenhorn players in traditional Swiss attire surprised us as we emerged from the cave. While these long wooden horns are no longer used for signaling to nearby villages, in our case, our alphorn players signaled the imminent sunset, marking the end of our day’s activities. We added our own B&R tradition, taking the opportunity to saber some bubbly. Combined with the local cheese and traditional Swiss sounds in the shadow of the mountains? Perfection.
E-Bikes: Don’t Hesitate!
Now that I’ve returned from riding, I am a changed man. The Scott pedal assist e-bikes allowed our group to truly ‘slow down and see the world’, Swiss-style—but also get a great workout on those high mountain passes.
With the different levels of assist on the bikes, we had people cruising on ‘turbo’ (the highest setting) all week, while others would choose the lowest level of assist to give just a little boost on the climbs—you choose how much or how little effort you’d like to make. And the truth is, Switzerland’s remarkable and inspiring landscapes would be out of reach for most of us mere mortals, if not for the e-bikes! This trip is possible for every level of cyclist, and it’s the best way to experience the region. Everything is richer for having arrived by bike.