Are you on a holiday near Saint-Raphaёl on the Côte d’Azur and would you like to know which beach to go to? Here’s our selection of 5 best beaches near Saint-Raphael for you to try out!

1. Calanque du Petit Canereit, Antheor

Calanque du Petit Canereit, Antheor, Estérel Cote d'Azur. One of the best beaches near Saint-Raphael

A beautiful, natural spot away from the crowds, without facilities. This beach is located between Agay and Théoule-sur-Mer, just after passing Antheor Plage and the train bridge. You will see a small parking lot on the right side of the scenic road. Come early in the morning to have a parking spot, and if you are really lucky, to have the beach all to yourself like we had one morning. Steep stairs lead you down to the beach, do-able with children, bring water, your water shoes, and your picnic! Snorkeling gear is also really good to bring as it is a beach with stones and a lot of fish can be seen! The second time we were there, at around 13 o’clock, at boat stopped to sell drinks and ice-cream, just in time for our dessert after the picnic! The captain of the boat said he came there every day, so do bring some money just in case. This beach is definitely one of our best beaches near Saint-Raphael!

2. Plage du Débarquement, Saint-Raphaёl

Plage du Débarquement, Saint-Raphael, one of the best beaches near Saint-Raphael for snorkeling and view on Ile d'or

This beach is one of our top best beaches in Saint-Raphael for snorkeling! An amazing amount of fish can be seen, even very close to the beach. It’s certainly because this beach has no sand but big rocks, so bring your water shoes and your snorkeling gear! We had never seen so many fish in one place in the Mediterranean before! You will see a lot of people walk around with the Decathlon snorkeling masks that have become so popular 😊. There are lifeguards on this beach, public toilets, and there is a restaurant. The view on the famous landmark of Saint-Raphaёl, l’Ile d’Or, is best from this beach, and we like to bring our stand-up paddles and paddle around the island. Paddling around the island and back to the beach takes about 35 minutes and my husband has done it with our 10 year old. The island is private property, so you cannot go on the island.


3. Tiki plage, or Plage de Camp Long, Agay

Tiki Plage, or Plage de Camp Long in Agay in the south of France

This beach, located between Agay and Saint-Raphaёl, is also known as the ‘Plage de Camp Long’. It is a creek with a nice beach with a mixture of sand and small stones. You can walk around the creek on a small foot path carved into the typical red rocks of the Estérel mountains that end up in the sea. The parking lot is relatively big compared to smaller creeks located along the well-known ‘Route de la Corniche d’Or’. The beach has a restaurant, a snack corner, a small shop, showers, public toilets, and rental of stand-up paddles, kayaks and pedal boats. Children are at ease to swim here as the water does not go steep down immediately. They can of course also search for crabs along the rocks around the creek. Tiki plage is definitely one of our preferred beaches!

4. Calanque des Anglais, Agay

Beautiful Calanque des Anglais in Agay, one of the best beaches near Saint-Raphael

Another beautiful, small beach, with typical red stones from the red rocks of the Estérel mountains. If you go all the way to the ‘official sign’ indicating the ‘Calanque des Anglais’, access to the beach is a bit more difficult then when you park at the stairs just before. From those stairs, the beach is accessible with children as well. Like all the ‘calanques’ beaches, come early and don’t forget water shoes and snorkeling gear!

5. Saint-Aygulf, sand beach near Saint-Raphael

Plage de Saint-Aygulf, one of the best sand beaches near Saint-Raphael

This wide beach is our best spot for real sand and building sand castles! It is also the perfect beach with small children as the water is very shallow for a long while. There are parking lots along the road on both sides (payed parking). Since it is quite a long beach, there are several different beach bars and restaurants. What we like to do after a couple of hours on the beach, is go to the beach front where there are several restaurants and bars right on the beach. Some have really nice terraces! The little center also has a big shop with everything you would need for the beach, inflatable toys, beach towels, they have everything! Just don’t go to the beach near the center, as it tends to get too crowded at the end of the day. The beach is long enough to pick a spot before the town center.

Would you like to see some of the beaches as seen from above? Check out our drone video of the beautiful coast line:

Would you like to know our other tips on visiting Saint-Raphael and Fréjus, then you may be interested in our other articles as well!

Beach cleanup

A walk on the beach in the Netherlands always makes me happy. It clears your head and the surroundings are beautiful. The kids can run in the wind, jump off the dunes and they can play the ‘does the wave wet my shoes or not game’. But still, to make them contribute to a beach cleanup gives them a whole other level of understanding, and if you do a cleanup every once in a while, when you walk in nature, it may just teach them to be responsible themselves later on.

They will transform it into a treasure hunt, and they may oblige you to finally bring a treasure or two home with you (we are the proud owners of a very rusty boat propellor), but it does really teach them something valuable, and they do realize it is ridiculous what people leave in nature… Straws, bottles, plastic bags, bags with dog poo (seriously if you clean up your dog’s poo, and put it in a plastic bag, why do you leave it on the beach afterwards?). We also found a whole box of medicines, and finally, a lost Iphone that we brought back to the beach bar hoping it would then be reunited with its owner.

The children seemed a bit more aware of the trash problem and I think that in summer, when we spend even more time on the beach, they will run after their empty cookie wrapping in case the wind picks it up. Or at least, I hope so!

Ferpècle hike Valais Switzerland

Ferpècle, Val d’Herens, Valais

A stunningly beautiful glacier landscape in the Valais region in Switzerland. Ferpècle is located in the Val d’Herens near Evolène and Arolla. It is said to be a bit of a hidden gem in the Valais, and we do agree, as we don’t hear much about this lunar landscape that often. Since we were near Ferpècle on a weekend when hiking towards the much more known Lac Bleu near Arolla, we decided to do the short Ferpècle hike on the next day. What an extraordinary place!

Alluvial site at the foot of two glaciers

Ferpècle is an important alluvial site of national importance at the foot of the Mont Miné and Ferpècle glaciers, at 2000m. At the site, you will see different ponds, water streams, sand and beautiful rocks. You will find yourself at the foot of these impressive glaciers with views on the Dent Blanche mountain. Local legends say that the area of Ferpècle has therapeutic energy resources.

Ferpècle Hike details and map

The hike to Ferpècle and the foot of the Ferpècle and Mont Miné glaciers starts at the Ferpècle Dam. The sign is well indicated and the hike is relatively flat and short. The path takes you along a stream of water which comes directly from the glacier. The hike is suitable for all levels and also for families with children.

You can click on below map for an interactive version in Komoot:

Ferpècle hiking map

Alternative hike with more elevation gain

At the start of the hike, you will see another hike sign indicating to the left to get to the ‘Cabane de Bricola’. This hike has a lot more elevation gain and will take you about 3,5 hours to get there. You cannot sleep at the Cabane de Bricola.

How to get to Ferpècle

We went to Ferpècle by car from the hamlet ‘Les Haudères’ and added the following in our Google maps to get there: ‘Ferpècle Swiss Tracking’. That is exactly where we parked our car as we were advised to do so by the helpful staff in the hotel we stayed at. There are a few more of these small parking lots at the end of the Ferpècle road. The road towards Ferpècle is a bit narrow for the last 10 minutes of the trip.

Ferpècle by public transport: Postauto Bus B 383 goes up to Ferpècle from Sion or closer by Les Haudères. We saw a bus stop, but not the bus. It may run more frequently in high season.

Which season is best for Ferpècle?

The Ferpècle hike can be done from spring to autumn, but is not accessible in winter due to snow. We did our hike in the beginning of autumn, but just a bit too early to enjoy the yellow larch trees known in this region.

For more articles on the Valais region in Switzerland, you might want to check out our posts on Grimentz, the hike to Lac de Taney, or the hikes along the Bisses waterways.

If you would like to stay updated on our family travels as we go, then make sure to check out our Instagram or Facebook page.

Röstigraben letters, Swiss culture

Welcome to the The Röstigraben Letters, monthly letters between Kristin from z’Nüni and Laura from Let’s Explore. Married Swiss, Kristin, an Australian living in german-speaking Zug, and Laura a Dutch, living in french-speaking Geneva, unfold through their letters the cultural differences between both sides of the Röstigraben, learning more about Switzerland along the way. Read their letters (Kristin’s &  Laura’s) and replies, and share your thoughts in the comments. 

My letter is a reply to Kristin’s September letter from the other side of the Röstigraben. You can read her September letter here.

Chère Kristin,

September… One of the two months of the year that always fly by before I know it! September and June, end of school year and start of a new one! 

The school routine settles in in our household, but it usually takes a while after those laid-back summer months. New school schedule, new outfits for sport activities, and we already had our first parent teacher meeting at the little one’s primary school, which is quite amazing if you consider we never even met his last year’s teacher due to C….

I’m sort of relieved you were confused as well about our discussion on school levels on both sides of the Röstigraben! Considering even my Swiss husband didn’t follow the Swiss system until university, we always feel a bit lost with how it works. Apparently our eldest must have a week of internship this year within a company, but since he hasn’t brought the information home yet, we still don’t really know where to start. Plus, this being difficult times, I don’t know how many companies really accept internships. I know in my office we haven’t had interns for a while. 

I think you are right when you say moving Cantons can be a nightmare. My husband moved from Geneva to Vaud and back during his studies and it was a bit like emigrating to another country really. 

I hope our children will experience this encouragement of learning the local languages as you say, preferably with an exchange, but somehow even normal things do not really seem to happen these days. Our youngest still has never accompanied us to work and has only been on one school trip for one week, while our eldest has done both 2 or 3 times. A trip to another Canton with another language really seems like such a great opportunity but for now, I don’t see this happen. 

I really feel for you about not being able to visit Australia… I hope the borders will open up soon and that you will be able to go! We will be going home again this October since when we went to the Netherlands, my husband was not with us, so he really wanted to go as well. I find that quite cute, that he as a Swiss, misses my home country as well. He has plans of cycling in the rain and eating fish dishes. 

September usually feels like an extended summer month in Geneva, but the weather was quite instable this month right? We still had sunny and warm days, but also lots of rainy ones! 

Jeune Genevois

The start of September marks Jeune Genevois In Geneva. A public holiday which always comes right at the beginning of the school year, roughly 2-3 weeks after the kids just started, on the second Thursday of September. ‘Jeune Genevois’ means ‘Genevan fast’. It is a sort of Thanksgiving. The first Genevan fast was around 1567 and was held for Protestants undergoing persecution. Traditionally in Geneva at Jeune Genevois people eat a plum tart. My guess is because it is the season, and usually after fasting people ‘celebrate’ with a meal. But that is my guess on it. So, plum tarts are all over the bakeries and stores in September. It is a tradition which is treasured in Geneva, but that at the same time divides us once again from the other Swiss since Geneva has Jeune Genevois, but not the Federal public holiday which is usually one week later. Did you have that ‘ Jeune Federal’ like most of Switzerland does?

Tine de Conflens

The advantage is that Genevans can go and explore other regions while people there are not off that Thursday and Friday. Most people do this, even if it is just popping over to the Canton Vaud for a day. And we did just that this year! We went close to Lausanne and took the kids to a new trampoline park, and then a short hike to a beautiful waterfall not far from Lausanne called Tine de Conflens. It was really beautiful and normally it can get a bit crowded on the weekends. But since we were there on our Thursday public holiday, we got to enjoy this mysterious beautiful spot without too many people. The Tine de Conflens has started to get a bit of Instagram fame, but still felt like a hidden gem in Switzerland. 

On the Friday, the kids had to go to school again, even if a lot of people do take them out of school to make it a long weekend. Our kids did go to school, but we went on a weekend away on Saturday and Sunday anyway, and we were really close to Zug!

Rapperswil, on the other side of the Röstigraben

I still would like to visit Zug some day since I hear more and more from you about this Swiss city, but for this time, it was Rapperswil on our list! I was excited because this weekend break had me going to two Swiss Cantons I had never been before: Canton Schwyz and Canton Sankt-Gallen. We stayed in Pfäffikon in Canton Schwyz and walked over the longest wooded pedestrian bridge in Switzerland towards Rapperswil in Canton Sankt-Gallen. The first time I had ever seen Lake Zürich in my life by the way!

Rapperswil was really nice. I assume you have been there, since it’s not far away from you? Rapperswil is known to be the city of roses of Switzerland and honestly, I never knew. 

The next day we went to Alpamare water park for some fun for the kids. Our little one had recently been to Aquapark on the other side of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and it is quite similar: lots of fun slides, a waves pool and more. The kids had a blast, and so did we really!

I can’t wait to hear more about your early fall trip to Scuol Kristin!

And yes, congratulations on your rebranding launch of z’Nüni! Very well done!

I actually must say I had never heard of this word, and we don’t have the equivalent which changes with the part of the day you are in. We have the same snack, but it’s called ‘gouter’ in morning, in the afternoon, or whichever time of the day. Agreed from this side of the Röstigraben as well, it is more than a snack! The ‘gouter’ is very important here as well!

As I write this letter I am all prepared for friends arriving in Geneva from Amsterdam tomorrow. This hasn’t happened for so long that I am all excited! We are going to be around Geneva, but we will also explore some beautiful nature in the Canton of Valais this weekend, which I will tell you all about in our next letter! Their beds are made, and I even already cooked a seasonal pumpkin soup for tomorrow’s dinner! What are your favorite fall recipes Kristin? I am such a big soup lover that fall really marks the start of soup season for me. 

As September is almost gone, I would like to wish you a great start of October on your side of the Röstigraben Kristin.

A bientot,

Laura

Make sure you read Kristin’s September letter here.

And you can find all our letters here. 

Röstigraben letters
Rapperswil Switzerland

Did you know Switzerland has a City of Roses? We knew Morges was known for tulips, that Grimentz is known for its many geranium flowers, and that wild Narcissus grow above Montreux, but we didn’t know Switzerland had a City of Roses until we visited Rapperswil.

We recently had the chance to visit Rapperswil, located on Lake Zurich on a weekend. Rapperswil is a medieval small town with great views over the lake from the upper part of town. The town is also referred to as Rapperswil-Jona as the two towns merged in 2007. 

Longest wooden bridge in Switzerland

Rapperswil can be reached by train, boat and car, but the best way to arrive in Rapperswil is by foot over the lovely wooden bridge. The Holzbrücke from Hurden on the other side of the lake is the longest wooden footbridge in Switzerland! The Holzbrücke from Hurden to Rapperswil is 841m long. It is not an old bridge, but there have been bridges connecting the two towns since about 3.500 years, and the Holzbrücke is located on the same spot as the older bridges were. 

Walking towards Rapperswil on the bridge is a beautiful and peaceful walk, while enjoying the view on Rapperswil without being on a boat. 

What to see in Rapperswil?

City’s Rose gardens

Rapperswil is the City of Roses and even has roses in its coat of arms. This probably means the town is connected to roses for a long time in history. There are rose gardens at several spots in town and the roses grow in many different colours. In total it is said that no less than 16.000 roses grow in the town. The biggest rose garden we saw was the one just by the castle walls while walking down from the castle towards the old town. The roses grow between June and October. 

Medieval City Center

The cobble stone streets of Rapperswil are very nice for a stroll. There are plenty of little shops and many terraces and restaurants. We followed the streets and looked at the typically Swiss facades while walking up towards the castle. Of course walking by the lake on a sunny day is also very nice.

The Castle

The castle is the landmark of Rapperswil and dates from 1229. It is located above the old town center. From up there, you will have a panoramic view over the town, Lake Zurich, and the surrounding mountains. You will also see that there are islands in the lake, which can apparently be visited. 

Weekly market in Rapperswil

There was a nice second hand market when we were in Rapperswil but the town also has a weekly food market every Friday morning from March until November on the Hauptplatz.

Knie Kinder Zoo

We didn’t go to the Zoo, but if you like the Circus, the Zoo of probably the most famous Swiss Circus is located in Rapperswil. You can visit the Knie Kinder Zoo in Rapperswil from March until November. 

More information: https://www.knieskinderzoo.ch/zoocute/homepage/

Boat tour on Lake Zurich

Rapperswil is connected to Zürich by boat, so it’s easy to come to Rapperswil if you are staying in Zürich. 

Alpamare water park, on the other side of the lake

We went to Alpamare in Pfäffikon on our weekend trip for some family fun! Alpamare is a big water park with plenty of slides for all, lazy floating rivers, a big wave pool, and outdoor thermal pools. More information on Alpamare: https://www.alpamare.ch/en/

If you would like to stay updated on our family travels as we go, then make sure to check out our Instagram or Facebook page.

Röstigraben letters, Swiss culture

Welcome to the The Röstigraben Letters, monthly letters between Kristin from Swiss Family Travel, and Laura from Let’s Explore. Married Swiss, Kristin, an Australian living in german-speaking Zug, and Laura a Dutch, living in french-speaking Geneva, unfold through their letters the cultural differences between both sides of the Röstigraben, learning more about Switzerland along the way. Read their letters (Kristin’s &  Laura’s) and replies, and share your thoughts in the comments. 

My letter is a reply to Kristin’s August letter from the other side of the Röstigraben. You can read her August letter here.

Geneva, August 2021

Salut Kristin,

I’m writing you from the chaos of our apartment during our big clean up week before school starts! The children have to sort out their rooms, throw away what they do not need and clean their rooms to have a fresh start of the new school year. 

There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices. Ha, yes, I know that expression. As I always prefer looking at things from the positive side, I totally agree with it. We read about the floodings in Switzerland, but we haven’t been around that much this summer so we haven’t really experienced all the rain and the high water ourselves. 

I have never been to the Morteratsch area, and that open panoramic train carriage over the Bernina Pass sounds fantastic! I love train trips, and especially in Switzerland. Sorry the weather in Flims wasn’t that good, but to disconnect, and reconnect as you say, it still is a lovely place to enjoy family time! I saw you also made your own boat to follow along the Conn Bachli. That brought back nice memories on our trip to Flims as well.

We had two weeks holiday as a family, and we went to Italy for one week, and back to the South of France for the second week. Italy as always made us feel instantly on vacation! Who doesn’t love Italy, right? We spent one night around the Cinque Terre area with its lovely colorful houses along the sea, and then one week in an Agriturismo in Tuscany, which was great! The Agriturismo had a big pool and we basically stick to the same schedule for years already: do visits in the morning, and have relaxing pool or beach time in the afternoon. So far this has always worked with our kids, and the teen didn’t complain either, so that was good. 

We made trips to Florence, Siena, Volterra and San Gimignano. Florence always remains special to me as I did a ‘language stay’ there one summer when I was younger and loved that! And so it’s nice to see these places again, and also walk by the apartment I stayed in back in the time. I so hope my children will also be motivated for language holidays later on! I know your daughter did a language exchange on our side of the Röstigraben. Did that motivate her to go on a language holiday once?

We went to Italy when the kids were a lot younger too, and it was good to go again as they didn’t have that much memories of it left. Time flies when I look at these photos!

When we came back to Geneva, I finally booked us a flight to my home country, and so a few days later we were on a plane, something we hadn’t done in quite a long time! Can you believe I actually cried when the plane landed touched the ground in Amsterdam? We stayed in Holland for one week. I had to work (in home office) but I only work part-time so there was still plenty of time to see family and friends and to cycle for hours and hours with the kids and my mom and just enjoy the scenery around us. 

We also went into the city center of Amsterdam for a day, and it really wasn’t as crowded as usual. Not that many tourists. It was the same in Florence where I only saw lots of people in front of the Duomo, but less just walking around the city. Good for us as it makes it easy to move around, but a bit sad as well for those depending on tourism.

We are now back in Geneva and have one last week before school starts and to prepare everything.

Our youngest will start the last year of Primary School (8P), and the eldest the last year of the middle high school (Cycle d’Orientation, so 11P). Is that what you call Gymnasium on your side? 

It’s tough to understand the equivalent between our side of the Röstigraben and yours. Our primary school is 8 years, and not 6 like you said? But at the end, they are indeed around 12 years old. Are the first 2 years of let’s say ‘Kindergarten’ not counted as primary school on your side? After primary school here, they go to the Cycle d’Orientation, and based on your final grades in primary school, you are divided in 3 levels, R1, R2 and R3. The Cycle d’Orientation lasts for 3 years, and then you either go to College, or to professional oriented schools. I must say we learn about the system while our eldest is at it, as neither myself, nor my (Swiss) husband, have been in school in Switzerland when younger. My husband did primary and secondary education in France, and entered the Swiss school system only at the Uni in Lausanne, and later on in Geneva. 

Like you, I also need to learn all about this apprentice-based learning, but it sounds interesting. 

I totally understand you preferred to sleep in your own bed after the holidays and not stay overnight in Geneva, and of course you can just keep your Geneva bucket list for a next occasion.

I myself am also very happy to be back home in Geneva. Just relaxing and going on bike rides through our surrounding vineyards again. Our ‘big annual sorting and organizing’ also has a positive effect on me as I appreciate our own home more every day once you sorted a room or closet.

I also look forward to see if local festivals and holidays will happen like usual this year, or still not. Since we live in the largest wine producing community of Switzerland we normally had harvesting festivities in September. We also have a public holiday coming up soon which is called ‘Jeune Genevois’. I will tell you more about that, and about its origin in our next letters. 

A bientôt!

Laura

Make sure you read Kristin’s August letter here.

And you can find all our letters here. 

Röstigraben letters

Röstigraben letters, Swiss culture

Welcome to the The Röstigraben Letters, monthly letters between Kristin from Swiss Family Travel, and Laura from Let’s Explore. Married Swiss, Kristin, an Australian living in german-speaking Zug, and Laura a Dutch, living in french-speaking Geneva, unfold through their letters the cultural differences between both sides of the Röstigraben, learning more about Switzerland along the way. Read their letters (Kristin’s &  Laura’s) and replies, and share your thoughts in the comments. 

My letter is a reply to Kristin’s May letter from the other side of the Röstigraben. You can read her July letter here.

South of France, July 2021

Hello Kristin!

I’m writing you from the South of France today, on the French national holiday, the 14th of July. While I am writing you from my parents in law’s garden, I am surrounded by the sound of the cicadas and the smell of the pine trees. Now, I am not really on vacation. I had the opportunity to have my home office elsewhere, and since the kids are on vacation, the choice between our apartment in Geneva, or their grandparent’s garden, made the choice rather easy. As I work part-time, I can still also enjoy this change of scenery outside of my ‘office hours’. 

Saint Raphael Beach
Saint Raphael

Our children do not have 6, but 8 weeks of school holiday in Geneva. But next year this will be different, as the Canton has voted to have a longer Easter break starting next year, which they then will deduct from the summer break. I am happy with that, because in some years, the time between Easter and the summer break can be quite long for the kids. 

Oh, I haven’t been to the Swiss National Park yet, but would really love to go there once! We, like you, have very fond memories of our holiday in Flims – Laax last year in summer, and like you, I adore eating Capuns in Graubünden. Good choice to go back to Flims! We especially liked the Trutg dil Flem hike there. I think you did a part of that one too last year didn’t you?

Funny that you speak about Edelweiss flowers. I had the goal to grow them from seeds myself this year, and also posted seeds to my mom. They grew way better at my mom’s in the Netherlands than they did at my place in Geneva. 

I personally don’t know Globi that well. It could be that the character is a bit more popular in the German speaking part, but I’m not sure about that. 

I’m super happy to have inspired you for future visits in the French speaking part of Switzerland! Yes, the Narcissi fields are a wonderful add to your bucket list, and spending a night in Geneva to make your stay a bit longer really is a good choice too! 

I of course have lots of tips on visiting Geneva. The best Badi would be the Bains des Paquis I spoke about. Then, you should definitely hop on one of the yellow bus boats and visit the Old Town, and the area Carouge, which is a bit the Italian quarter of Geneva. 

La Cabuche
Terrace place in the vineyards near Geneva

In the meanwhile, we have spent 2 weeks in the company of my mom, which was a real blessing after such a long time separated. Like in most areas, the weather wasn’t that good unfortunately, but we did enjoy Geneva, and I’ve spent one afternoon enjoying some mom and daughter time with an afternoon tea in a hotel by the lake, and we went to a gorgeous terrace in the middle of the vineyards in a nearby village. 

We also went all together on a great excursion in Switzerland, the Chocolate Train! Have you heard of that train? It is a beautiful Belle Epoque train that runs on the Goldenpass line from Montreux. The train itself makes the trip so special. A bit like I would imagine the Orient Express train to be like. We first went to Gruyères, and then on to Maison Cailler in Broc for the Chocolate experience. I’m happy my mom was with us on this trip!

Less than a week later, we were on another train trip, but going to France that time. From Geneva, it takes 6 hours to get to Saint-Raphael, the coastal town where my husband’s family lives. Yes, he is French and Swiss, a bi-national. We just had to change trains once in Marseille, so it is really easy to come here by train. It seems we are luckily escaping to horrible weather in Geneva for a week already, and the children are happy to spend some time with their grandparents.

On Monday, my after-work activity was snorkeling with my son in front of Ile d’Or island. One of our favorite beaches in Saint-Raphael. Since it is a rocky beach, and no sand, there is always an incredible amount of fish swimming there. 

This weekend, my husband will come to pick us up, and we will go back to Geneva. We will be there a few days before our real family holiday starts. I will of course be washing and packing during those days. 

Can’t wait to see your photos from the Swiss National Park and Flims! Enjoy your holiday dear Kristin!

Sending you sunshine from the south,

Laura

Make sure you read Kristin’s July letter here.

And you can find all our letters here. 

Röstigraben letters
Chocolate Train Montreux

The Chocolate Train in Switzerland from Montreux!

Montreux – Gruyères – Broc – Montreux

A scenic train route on a Belle Époque train, combined with cheese and chocolate tastings. Who wouldn’t love that? The Chocolate Train runs on the Goldenpass line and takes you in a dreamy train carriage in 1930’s style from Montreux to Gruyères and Broc. The train gently rolls through different Swiss landscape sceneries. From the majestic view on Lac Léman (Geneva lake) right when you leave Montreux, and through the green hills in Canton Fribourg. 

Train and chocolate lovers, this bucket list trip in Switzerland is for you!

The Chocolate Train

Not just any train, but possibly one of the most beautiful trains in Switzerland. This train, which will remind you of the Orient Express, instantly turns every passenger into a traveler! It is all about the journey itself. The Chocolate Train gently pulls its 1st class and 2nd class carriages through the Swiss postcard landscapes. The seats, the wooden ceiling, and the details will transport you right back in history, to the 1930’s.

In first class, a coffee and ‘pain au chocolat’ is served when you leave Montreux. A view on the lake is visible from both sides, so there is not really a ‘best side of the train to sit on’. Just make yourself comfortable in the Belle Epoque train seats and enjoy the view. 

First Stop: Gruyères

The MOB Goldenpass bus will take you onwards from the trainstation Montbovon to ‘La Maison du Gruyère’, where you can learn all about cheesemaking and buy some of the world famous Gruyère cheese right from the factory amidst the fields where the cows graze. 

Then, in a few minutes time, the bus will take you to the medieval village Gruyères. You will have plenty of time to have lunch, or to visit the Castle of Gruyères or the Museum of H.R. Giger, the creator of the movie ‘Alien’. If you would like to sit down for lunch, we would recommend that you reserve your spot at one of the restaurants in advance. Of course, most restaurants serve cheese fondue and raclette, and the Swiss dessert Meringues with double cream from Gruyères, but also other local specialties! More information for your visit in our article on Gruyères

More information on La Maison du Gruyère : https://www.lamaisondugruyere.ch/homepage-en/

Second Stop: All about chocolate at Maison Cailler in Broc!

From Gruyères, the bus will take you in 10 minutes to Maison Cailler in Broc. Maison Cailler of Nestlé is a nice multi-sensorial chocolate learning experience. You will see an interactive explanation on the history of the oldest Swiss chocolate brand and on how the Swiss became famous for chocolate making. You will see how chocolate is made, including some of the signature chocolates like the ‘Branches’. A visit is not complete without tasting the delicious result! At the end of the Chocolate experience, you will be able to taste samples of Cailler’s different chocolates, yum! 

More information on Maison Cailler’s chocolate factory visit : https://cailler.ch/en/maison-cailler

Back to Montreux

From Broc, the MOB Goldenpass bus will take you back to Montreux train station, where you started your day. You can still take a stroll by the lake, to digest from your cheese and chocolate experience. 

About the journey:

  • The Chocolate Train runs between May and October and leaves at 9:50 from Montreux. There is a parking lot right by the train station. 
  • In July and August the train runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  • The train trip itself takes about an hour. The rest of the transfers are by luxury bus.
  • You will have plenty of free time in Gruyères
  • The bus from Gruyères to Broc takes about 10 minutes
  • Visit of the Chocolate Factory and possibility to buy chocolate at Maison Cailler
  • Back to Montreux by bus in about 45 minutes

More information and where to reserve your tickets:

Montreux Rivièra website: https://www.montreuxriviera.com/en/P634/chocolate-train

MOB Goldenpass Chocolate Train: https://mob.ch/activity/le-train-du-chocolat/?lang=en

Alternative trips on the Belle Epoque train:

The train part of the Chocolate Train trip stops in Montbovon. If you would like to stay on the beautiful train for longer, it runs all the way Gstaad and Zweisimmen. Gstaad is another place we love to visit in summer. Check out our article on things to do in Gstaad if you would prefer to go there. 

More information about this train line: https://mob.ch/activity/belle-epoque/?lang=en

Our trip on the Chocolate Train was hosted, our views and opinions are our own. 

Did you like this suggestion of a day trip in the Montreux Rivièra region? Then you may also be interested in our article on the vineyards of Lavaux, or the train to the Pleiades to see the Narcissus fields in bloom in spring!

If you would like to stay updated on our family travels as we go, then make sure to check out our Instagram or Facebook page.

Röstigraben letters, Swiss culture

Welcome to the The Röstigraben Letters, monthly letters between Kristin from Swiss Family Travel, and Laura from Let’s Explore. Married Swiss, Kristin, an Australian living in german-speaking Zug, and Laura a Dutch, living in french-speaking Geneva, unfold through their letters the cultural differences between both sides of the Röstigraben, learning more about Switzerland along the way. Read their letters (Kristin’s &  Laura’s) and replies, and share your thoughts in the comments. 

My letter is a reply to Kristin’s May letter from the other side of the Röstigraben. You can read her June letter here.

June 2021

Narcissi Montreux Riviera

Salut Kristin!

Life on the French side of the Röstigraben is going very good! We are all in the summer mood after a few hot days and nice swims, even though some of the summer feelings got washed away by some rain storms here and there. 

Those cherry-ladder races sound really fun! Is there a specific reason why Zug is famous for cherries? I know the Canton Valais is famous for apricots, but not why it is specific to one region or another. I love cherries, but quite honestly, on our end at least, I always find them so expensive… Are they less expensive in Zug? 

In Geneva, we have no fame for a specific fruit I think, but we do have nice wines produced locally. Geneva is however famous as a place for international meetings. A city of peace in a country known for its neutrality. And so, Geneva was chosen for the summit between the American and the Russian Presidents here last week. As I live in the countryside, the major logistics around such a meeting did not affect me that much, and my husband was just put in Home Office that day, so it was fine. We just saw some impressive and loud planes arriving, already on the weekend before the summit. 

Geneva and the yellow boats les fouettés
Geneva and its yellow boats ‘Les Mouettes’

Yes, the vaccine roll out works good in Geneva as well. The vaccines are administered in several locations across town and a big concert hall was transformed into a vaccination center. The only thing which was a pity, is that I got my appointment at the complete opposite side of town, but well, I’m not complaining. What also works well, is the Covid Certificate. As you know our teen had Covid, and we could just request his certificate online and we received it, with his QR code about 5 days later. That means at least one out of four of us now has a certificate which makes travel a bit easier. We will travel this summer, as we plan to go both to France and to the Netherlands.

Talking about travel and vaccines… my mom has arrived!! After a year and a half separated (not counting those 2 days when she came and Switzerland was put on the ‘no travel’ list when she was on the plane, and she had to leave again). Incredible! We went to pick her up from the airport 2 days ago, and I thought: I’ll believe it when I see her! She had her 2 doses of vaccine and was allowed to travel, so we can now enjoy spending 2 weeks together with my mom!

I’m planning to do a lot of local things in Geneva with her. Like breakfast at the Bains des Paquis (one of our Badis), showing her the new beach in Geneva, and go for a walk to a terrace in the vineyards. When summer arrives in Geneva, there are so many options!

Oh, I understand, we all have a bit of allergies as well in our house, some more than others, but luckily less for spring flowers, because we went on a very beautiful spring flower hike above the Montreux Rivièra to see the famous Narcissi fields at Les Pléiades! It really is a remarkable sight to see. They call those fields May Snow, and it is true that is looks a bit like a thin layer of snow on those mountain fields. The blooming of the flowers doesn’t last long, but it’s a good add to anyone’s bucketlist of spring hikes!

Oh, those are important school changes! I understand your little Z will be a proud real school kid, and how amazing that your teen and her friends were able to organize their own camp! 

Your favorite summer drink sounds delicious! Will you share how you make it?

Until our next letter Kristin, which I will probably write from the South of France! Until then, good luck with all the end of the year activities. True that end of June can sometimes be a bit stressful!

Gros bisous,

Laura

Make sure you read Kristin’s June letter here.

And you can find all our letters here. 

Röstigraben letters
Narcissi Fields Pléiades Vevey

Beautiful Spring hike along the Narcissi Fields at Les Pléiades above Vevey

Every year in spring, fields of wild Narcissi start to bloom at several locations in the Montreux Rivièra region in Switzerland. The white carpet of flowers covering the green fields is often called ‘May Snow’. There are several locations to go and see these beautiful flowers. We went on a hike along the Narcissi fields at Les Pléiades, above Vevey in the Canton Vaud. A short hike, but with some steep parts. The breathtaking spring flower fields make it totally worth the hike!

The Spring Hike to the Narcissi Fields needs to be carefully planned. Wild Narcissi bloom between April and May every year, but when exactly depends on the weather and temperatures. They bloom at several locations at different times due to the difference in altitude.

Narcissi Fields at Les Pléiades above Vevey

At Les Pléiades above Vevey, you will be able to do a round loop hike that will take you around the flower fields. You can go up by train, or park your car at the parking in Lally. Due to the short blooming, it can get a bit busy so it is best to take the train to avoid the deception of not finding a parking spot. The train ride offers you beautiful views over Lac Léman, the Alps, and lets you spot your first Narcissi on the way up!

We got off the train at Lally, and started our hike from there. You can also go up to the last stop at Les Pléiades and start your hike there.

View from Lally Pléiades
View on the mountains from Lally

From Lally, the first part of the hike was on a wooden pathway. The hike is suitable for families, but not for strollers. A part of the hike has a steep climb (200m elevation gain).

Narcissi Montreux Riviera

The flower fields really are an amazing sight and it is one of the highlights of the region in Spring. Highly recommended to do this hike at least once!

Map of the Narcissi fields hike

Here is our map of the Narcissi Fields Hike at Les Pléiades. You can click here for an interactive version of our map.

Where to eat at Les Pléiades

We had lunch in Restaurant le 1209 in Lally before we started our hike. You can easily reach the restaurant from the small train station and this is also where the parking is for those who prefer to come by car. The restaurant has a beautiful terrace with a view and serves very nice seasonal and regional dishes. What we liked is that the dishes contained local flowers and herbs. For more information, check out their website here. There is another restaurant on top at Les Pléiades, and a small Café-Restaurant about half way along the hike.

How to get to the Narcissi fields at Les Pléiades

By train: it is easy to reach Les Pléiades. The MOB regional train leaves from Vevey and takes you up. If you would like to stop earlier, like we did at Lally, you have to request that stop with the button in the train. Also, it is best to sit in the first part of the train as the stations are so small that you may not be able to exit from the second wagon.

By car: you can park at Lally, which is the start of this hike. It can get busy, so we would recommend you to go by train instead.

Where else can I see Narcissi Fields?

There are several locations above the Montreux Riviera region to see Narcissi Fields, like in Les Avants, Glion, Caux and Mont Pélerin. To see whether they are blooming, you could check information here, and also follow the social media channels and website of the Montreux Riviera region: Montreux Riviera

Our trip to Les Pléiades was hosted, our reviews and opinions are our own. 

If you would like to see more hikes in this region, we would also recommend you to check out our article on a short hike in the Vineyards of Lavaux!

If you would like to stay updated on our family travels as we go, then make sure to check out our Instagram or Facebook page.

Röstigraben letters, Swiss culture

Welcome to the The Röstigraben Letters, monthly letters between Kristin from Swiss Family Travel, and Laura from Let’s Explore. Married Swiss, Kristin, an Australian living in german-speaking Zug, and Laura a Dutch, living in french-speaking Geneva, unfold through their letters the cultural differences between both sides of the Röstigraben, learning more about Switzerland along the way. Read their letters (Kristin’s &  Laura’s) and replies, and share your thoughts in the comments. 

My letter is a reply to Kristin’s May letter from the other side of the Röstigraben. You can read her May letter here.

May 2021

Chère Kristin,

The kitchen burn is well behind us, and all is fine, thank you. We have been a bit out of luck as we also had to spend a large part of May in quarantine. It was such a bummer as our children first had to quarantine because they had been in contact with someone who was tested positive for Covid. Then we were set free and negative, and my son still got Covid literally on his first day out. So then, we all had to quarantine again… 

Luckily, he didn’t have many symptoms, but it took quite some organization as a family, taking care of the kids, working in home office, and trying to not get behind with schoolwork too much. Anyway, he is doing fine now, that’s the most important! He had lots of schooltests to do after his quarantine, because the end of the school year is near and he had missed a lot. We were feeling a bit sorry for him to have this much work right after feeling tired and a bit sick. 

Oh yes, totally green here as well! We had a lot of rain in May and that has done a lot of good to nature! In Geneva, we had the national long weekends with public holidays. During one we were still in quarantine, but we enjoyed the second one even more! We have spent a day in the forest grilling in nature with some friends. It was close to the Rhone River which was a spectacular sight on that particular weekend as they almost emptied the river for a cleanup. They do that every 4 years or so to prevent flooding. They lower the Rhone level to get rid of sediments piled up behind the Verbois Dam. In Geneva, the Arve river comes into the Rhone at some point, and since the source of the Arve is much closer (Mont-Blanc and Haute-Savoie area in France), it has a different color and carries a lot of mud and stones. 

The emptying of the Rhone changes the color of the water for a few days at least as far as in Lyon in France. The part of the river where we sometimes stand-up paddle in summer is almost completely empty, leaving a bit of a strange moon landscape behind, and quite an awkward smell too. 

The next day of that long weekend, we went to the beautiful vineyards of Lavaux. I’m sure you have heard of those. The Lavaux terraced vineyards are a UNESCO World Heritage site in Switzerland. It is located between Lausanne and Vevey and offers many hiking opportunities with a view. We went to the village called Saint-Saphorin to have a nice lunch on a terrace, and then we did an easy and short hike in the vineyards. Super lovely!

Congratulations to your husband for his 50th birthday! Quite a milestone and super fun to have a family BBQ to celebrate it! Do you have a large enough terrace to easily have the family over? I sometimes see on your photos that you have a view on Lake Zug. I can imagine you spend a lot of time just looking at the view then?

A hike with a 600-year tradition sounds really impressive! I hope these things will last as it makes it very special. I love traditions and local history too, and I like to chat about it with the children. They know much more than I do of course because they grow up here and learn about them in school. My amazement as someone who didn’t grew up here also shows them how special traditions are. They are not just ‘normal’. I personally like the ‘Escalade’ in Geneva in December, and specifically that there is that one street in the old town that you can only visit once a year. It’s funny when you think of it, that street is closed off for the whole rest of the year. 

Oh wow, you can actually get the keys to the clock tower of Zug? I would like to visit Zug one day, and am definitely putting this on my list!

We all love strawberries, and my husband too, does not want us to eat them when the season hasn’t started yet. Due to our geographical location (a bit surrounded by France), and the fact my husband is also French, we usually eat the Swiss and the French ones! 

No Elderflower foraging here, or at least not much as I haven’t heard of it. We do know the sirup and love to drink that too! We always have different flavors of sirups at home. Definitely the childhood drink!

Talk to you again next month Kristin!

Hugs from Geneva,

Laura

Make sure you read Kristin’s May letter here.

And you can find all our letters here. 

Lavaux vineyards walk

An easy walk with an amazing view! 

The terraced vineyards of Lavaux, above Lac Léman, is a UNESCO World heritage site in Canton Vaud in Switzerland. The area was shaped by man in the 12th century by building terraces held in place by stone walls. It was the start of winegrowing on the steep hills along the lake. The vineyards of Lavaux were added to the list of Unesco World Heritage sites in 2007. The Lavaux vineyards offer many opportunities for walks with amazing views over the lake.

One of the most scenic roads in the Lavaux area is the Route de la Corniche with its summit in Chexbres. This road has the same name as the famous road in the South of France with a view on the coast. It is a bit comparable, even though in Lavaux, you see the lake and not the sea. 

Saint-Saphorin

There are plenty of hiking possibilities in the area, and you can hike for as long as you would like. If you are looking for an easy walk, with all the best views, this is possible from several villages. We did a short Lavaux vineyard walk starting in Saint-Saphorin.

Saint-Saphorin is a very beautiful small village. The fortified town is located on the lake and at the foot of Mont Pélerin. The town has narrow cobbled streets and a central square with a church with a bell tower. Many walking trails leave from the village. Long hikes, or shorter ones.

Lavaux Vineyards Walk

We walked from Saint-Saphorin to Rivaz. This is a part of the Lavaux area with some of the most beautiful views. You can continue further, to Chexbres if you would like a bit more uphill. We decided to go for the short version after a nice lunch in the town. 

This walk takes you along the ‘Chemin de la vigne à Gilles’ which is named after the chansonnier and poet Jean Villad Gilles who used to live in Saint-Saphorin. He wrote a lot of poems on Saint-Saphorin and you will find information panels about him and his poems along this road. You will also find information about the Lavaux region and the type of grapes along the walk. 

Rivaz and wine tasting

In Rivaz, you can visit the Vinorama. The Vinorama is a space dedicated to learn all about the different wines, and the history of the terraced vineyards of Lavaux. More than 300 wines of the region are presented here, and they have a tasting room to taste the wines.

More information on their website: http://www.lavaux-vinorama.ch/en

Since we didn’t want to take the exact same route back, we went down in the village in Rivaz, and passed by the Chateau de Glerolles. To get back up from there, there was one steep part, but it’s not that long. 

A map of our Lavaux Vineyards Walk can be found here:

Click here for the interactive version of the map

Lavaux Panoramic Train

In the summer season, you could also go on a route along the villages and vineyards on the Lavaux Panoramic Train. All the information about this train can be found here: https://www.lavaux-panoramic.ch/home/

Hike and take a train back

Lavaux vineyards Rivaz

There are many more hiking options in the Lavaux area. We will soon do more hikes there and add them to this article when we do. Some of the options are: 

  • From Cully to Epesses and on to Rivaz, trains are between Cully and Rivaz
  • Saint-Saphorin to Chexbres, possibility to come back by train
  • Grandvaux to Lutry, which takes about 2 hours
  • And many more!

Where to Eat in Saint-Saphorin

Café du Raisin Saint-Saphorin

We had lunch in the small Café du Raisin. They mainly serve fish dishes from the lake, but also have local cheese and meat platters, and something for vegetarians. They have a beautiful terrace with a view on the lake. Make sure you reserve in advance and ask them for a table on the terrace on top of the restaurant. When the weather predictions are good, they are usually fully booked a few days in advance. 

Where to eat in Chexbres

A famous terrace with a view in the Lavaux vineyards area, is ‘Le Deck’ at the hotel – restaurant Baron Le Tavernier. More information about that terrace: le Deck

Did you like this article on a walk in the vineyards in Lavaux? Then you may also like our article on a hike in the vineyards in Ligerz with a view on Lake Biel!

If you would like to stay updated on our family travels as we go, then make sure to check out our Instagram or Facebook page.