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!

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 October Röstigraben Letter. You can read her December letter here.

Geneva, December 2021

Dear Kristin,

Thank you for your letter, which I always love to read! You are right, this letter marks a year of letters across the Röstigraben and I have learnt a lot and have the feeling there still is a lot to learn! I really hope we will also meet in real life one day, and I would love to visit Zug after all your stories and photos! 

I can’t believe we’re already way into the December month, but I didn’t have that many activities in November. For me it was the grey weather, changing season, and lack of light that got me want to curl up on the couch as well! 

Netherlands

Since our last letter, we went to the Netherlands at the end of October for the school break. Long time we hadn’t been on an airplane the 4 of us! We had a very good week, seeing family and going on a few days break in the east of the country. What I liked is that we even went to some places that I myself had never been to before. We took a detour through the north of the country to drive over a dike highway, the Afsluitdijk, with water on both sides of the road. The reason for our detour was to buy our favorite Dutch cheese, but we really also loved discovering something new. 

I’m happy we went, as the pandemic situation is not getting any better, and so I don’t know when we will be able to go again. Believe me, I do realize I’m lucky that this distance still offers possibilities, and that for you, it is not even possible at the moment. What really bothers me is to try to figure out all the different rules for the different countries. New measures to travel to the Netherlands, or to France to my husbands family. I think we may just stay in Switzerland during the December break and enjoy all nice things here. 

Christmas wreath

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas

We started decorating around the house, making it all comfy and with lights. Together with a friend, I made a beautiful Christmas wreath for on our door. Our kids helped us, and I’m super proud of the result! I used to make Christmas decorations with my mother when I was a kid, and loved to do that with a friend now too. 

I’m so intrigued about all these different celebrations that you talk about and that we, here, have absolutely no knowledge about! The lantern festival sounds really nice and I read about the Chlausjagen in previous articles on your blog. I absolutely had no idea about these traditions!

Geneva Escalade

In Geneva, we have the ‘Fete de l’Escalade’ which is very important to the locals and which is celebrated each year, but cancelled for 2 years in a row now. The Genevians celebrate their victory in 1602 on the French from the Savoy region who attacked Geneva in the middle of the night. Each year (in normal times), hundreds of actors dress up like in 1602 and walk around the old town of Geneva and proclaim the victory. 

There are some key characters in this history like ‘Mère Royaume’ who poured hot soup down on the enemy and made vegetable soup the traditional meal to eat at the Escalade. The soup cauldron is now, you will not be surprised as this is Switzerland, turned into a chocolate version which is broken while speaking the words: ‘Et ainsi périrent les ennemis de la République!’ (Thus did perish the enemies of the Republic!). 

Chocolate cauldron Geneva

The chocolate soup pot is broken, shared and eaten, in Geneva, the surrounding villages, and on all schools. There is also a song that they sing which is in an old dialect, making it a bit difficult for me to understand as a foreigner, but of course our children have been singing this victory song since they were very little.

I love traditions like these and usually go to the Old Town of Geneva on the Escalade weekend. I think I have mentioned something very special in our letters before: the Passage de Monetier. This is a very narrow street (my shoulders at some point touch walls on both sides), which is only accessible to the public one weekend per year. How special is that? A narrow passage way you can only go through ONE weekend per year. I think that is very special. 

Saint-Nicolas, or Samichlaus as you say, is not so celebrated in Geneva, but very much in my home country yes. On our side of the Röstigraben, I think Saint-Nicolas has the most importance in Fribourg, where he speaks to the public every year during their celebration. It is on my list to go at least once to Fribourg for the Saint-Nicolas celebration. 

I haven’t yet been to a Christmas market this year, but I do intend to go. Our teen is traveling tomorrow with school to the one in Basel. Quite a trip from Geneva, but so nice for them to have at least one trip this year! So far, my favorite Christmas market has been the one in Montreux, but admitted, I haven’t been to the one in Lausanne yet!

Yum, we loooove cheese fondue and Raclette! I do not know Schallen Ursli though, who is that? We do know the iron fondue pots, but we ourselves have ceramic fondue pot. I wonder if the iron ones are not more used in France, and therefore maybe more common on our side of the Röstigraben? 

I’m looking forward to hear all things you will do during the end of year break Kristin. Wishing you and your family very happy holidays, and a wonderful 2022!

Love from Geneva,

Laura

Make sure you read Kristin’s December 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 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 October letter from the other side of the Röstigraben. You can read her October letter here.

Geneva, October 2021

Salut Kristin!

Happy October to you too!

I saw your gorgeous Ticino photos over on Instagram. You are so lucky this region is within easy reach! From Geneva it is a bit further indeed. For us, it’s almost as far as driving to the South of France. Well, about an hour shorter, but that does make the south a popular Autumn break for many here.

I totally understand you feeling torn between discovering new places or returning to favorite ones. We really love both too, as returning to places also makes solid memories as a family. At least that’s how I feel about it, going somewhere with a toddler, and returning through the years and re-discovering the same place while interests change.

I have never been to the Rheinfall, this is literally the opposite side of Switzerland for us. It is still on the long Swiss bucket list of places to visit as soon as the opportunity arises. I did however visit another place of this long list in the beginning of this month with my friends who came to visit from Amsterdam. We went to the Lac Bleu near Arolla in the Valais region. I had already been to Blausee on the German side, but never to Lac Bleu on our side of the Röstigraben, and what a beautiful place!

I was hoping for the larch trees to be yellow already, but it was too early for that, but it was super beautiful all the same. The hike to the lake is a short one, but with amazing views and a cool small mountain restaurant for some drinks after. We all loved it! Have you heard of this lake before?

We stayed overnight in a hotel with a hot tub, and had Rösti in their restaurant. Yes, they do serve Rösti here as well! My friends actually knew Rösti as a pre-cooked meal and were pleasantly surprised by how good it was.

Another short hike we did on the same weekend was to Ferpècle and the foot of the Mont Miné glacier. Wow! Really beautiful and moon like landscape that you could really stare at for a long time! I definitely will go back here with the kids once as well as this whole region was super beautiful.

When you drive towards the valley, the road also takes you through the Earth Pyramids of Euseigne. I had to look this up on the internet, but these pyramids were formed at the end of the ice age. Super impressive formations!

Wow! You went on the Glacier Express with your visitors when your first born was 6 weeks old! Seems like a good idea for sightseeing with a baby as the baby can sleep and you’re not outside for too long, depending on the season she was born in of course. Great idea to take your daughter back to the Rheinfalls now that she is bigger!

Hmmm, typical places where I take my visitors… Most visitors that come on a regular bases have seen quite some things on our end now, but I guess I mostly take them to Geneva Old Town, to Annecy in France (which is a half an hour drive only), walking in the Jura mountains, markets on the French side, the town Nyon, or Yvoire across the lake, and a bit further to the Lavaux vineyards. With my friends who were just here we also took a peek at Lavaux while driving back to Geneva from the Valais. It’s such a beautiful place with an incredible view on the lake.

Oh yes, complicated those public holidays! Maybe they do try to have the same number of public holidays between the Cantons so that all the Swiss enjoy an equal amount of free time, and that’s why some have chosen these days off or other days while sticking to a maximum

It is wild season, yes. I actually don’t like the taste of the meat, it is quite peculiar and strong. I also don’t really like the fact that there are real hunters around in the forest and it makes us ‘very aware’ when we go on hikes. There are for sure different rules on the French and Swiss sides, but I find it impressive if we go and hike somewhere with our kids that you could see signs saying that a hunt is in progress.

I do however just like you love barley soup!! Yum! Have to make that again soon! Another Swiss soup I like is the Soupe de chalet from the Fribourg region, with cream and wild spinach. Delicious to warm up after some time outside. Do you also eat this soup sometimes?

Soupe de Chalet
Soupe de Chalet in the Fribourg Region

I have to go now Dear Kristin. Our October break only starts this Saturday and I haven’t packed anything yet! We’re going back to Holland for a week and we’re super excited to go! When we went in summer, my husband couldn’t come with us and he does miss the Netherlands as well, so we decided to go back with him this month. We will also have a real vacation, and not only visiting family. We rented a holiday home close to a National Park. I will tell you all about that in our next letter!

Gros bisous,

Laura

Make sure you read Kristin’s October letter here.

And you can find all our letters here

Röstigraben letters
Lac Bleu Hike Arolla

Switzerland has more than one very blue lake and obviously Lac Bleu is one of them. We had already been to Blausee near Kandersteg in the German speaking part of Switzerland, but Lac Bleu, in the French speaking part had also been on our Swiss bucket list for a while! Lac Bleu is located near Arolla in the Val d’Herens valley in the Region of Evolène. The area is particularly beautiful in autumn because of the yellow larch trees, but honestly probably beautiful in all seasons. In summer, people sometimes swim in Lac Bleu.

We went just before the trees completely changed colors, but the first signs of Autumn were already there. The hike to the lake is short and a bit steep, but the views over the mountains, and the beauty of the lake make it very much worth it!

The Lac Bleu Hike

The classical Lac Bleu Hike starts in La Gouille. To get to Lac Bleu from La Gouille, the path is very well indicated with signs you cannot miss and it’s about a 40 minutes climb up. Just before arriving at Lac Bleu, you will see one little mountain restaurant called ‘Chez Leon’ which is a good place for refreshments.

You can also bring your own picnic to Lac Bleu as you will find some picnic tables on site, or you can just sit near the lake. The lake has a small waterfall and offers a Swiss postcard view on the surrounding mountain peaks.

To hike back to La Gouille, you can take the same route back, or hike for a bit longer to make the hike a round loop one. To do so, you just choose the path behind the Chez Leon mountain restaurant, which will take you down to La Gouille while enjoying a very beautiful view. This path is slightly longer, but less steep. Count approximately an hour to get back down to La Gouille.

Hiking Map to Lac Bleu from La Gouille

This is the map of our classical round loop Lac Bleu hike from La Gouille. For some reason the timing said on the map is not correct. I would say 1 hour and 45 minutes total for the hike. For an interactive version of the map you can click here.

Several Hikes lead to Lac Bleu

For longer hikes, you can also reach Lac Bleu from Arolla, or from Les Haudères where we were staying. Hiking from Les Haudères on a 2h30 trail was our first option, but we didn’t check our map correctly and ended up hiking a steep hike to Roc Vieux! Can you believe it?! So, top tip: always check the map!

The Val d’Hérens region

We highly recommend an overnight stay if you would like to visit the Val d’Hérens region, as this area offers a multitude of options on hiking trails and sites to see. When you are driving towards the Val d’Hérens, you will also pass the interesting Pyramides d’Euseigne. These earth pyramids are protected monuments and date from the end of the ice age! The road will even lead you right through them…

Another interesting site to visit, accessible through a short hike, is Ferpècle. We loved walking around in this lunar landscape! You can check out all the information on this hike in our article on Ferpècle.

Where to stay when visiting Val d’Hérens

We found a typical Swiss hotel in the hamlet Les Haudères. The hotel is run by a very friendly family who will happily give you all the tips you need for your stay or your hikes. The hotel also has a beautiful Spa area with a jacuzzi, a terrace with a view, and a sauna. There is an on site restaurant with regional dishes. You can check our hotel recommendation here.

More beautiful Swiss lakes

If you would love to discover more beautiful Swiss lakes, then our article on the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland, created with other Swiss-based families could be an interesting read for you as well!

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.

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