Trip planning: Mountains, museums and canals (Europe Autumn 2020)

Sometime last year, The Wife commented that although we’ve been to Spain twice, we haven’t visited other parts of Europe. “Switzerland sounds nice”, she added.

Yes, it does. And since Europe anywhere is such a long flight from Singapore, it would be a waste not to cover more ground. So, I decided to add Paris and Amsterdam to the itinerary.

We’ve been accumulating Krisflyer miles through various sign-up bonuses and optimised 4mpd credit card spending, and will be redeeming business class saver awards on Singapore Airlines. Flying into Zurich Airport (ZRH) and flying out from Amsterdam Schipol Airport (AMS), with inter-city train journeys in-between.

My Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status, earned in 2019 via a fast-track challenge, will last until Feb 2021. Hence, the plan is to choose Marriott hotels to enjoy free breakfasts, executive lounge access and (hopefully) room upgrades.

Zurich doesn’t seem like a particularly interesting city for sight-seeing, and since our 13-hour flight lands around 8am, we’ll take a short train ride from the airport into Lucerne and start our holiday there.

Besides the old town and scenic lake, it’s a good base for day trips to various mountains, including Mount Pilatus (2,128 metres) and Mount Titlis (3,032 metres). Half the fun will be the journey to the summit, with a Golden Path and cable car rides respectively.

Montreux will be the next stop and I’m hoping to score a good rate on a lake view balcony room at the Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic, a relatively recent addition to the Marriott family.

The Montreux train station is also where the Chocolate Train starts its 8-hour journey. The train itself is not edible but wouldn’t that be amazing! It goes to Gruyères for cheese and Broc for chocolate at Maison Cailler, hence the name.

Image credit: Montreux-Oberland-Bernois Railway (MOB)

And of course, we can’t miss a day trip to Rochers de Naye (2,042 metres) which is literally in the backyard of Montreux and up a cog railway. Since we’ll be spending at least four days in Montreux, there’ll be time to take ferry trips to Vevey and Lausanne.

Image credit: By Sumspic Simon LEPETRE – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2923122

Our last stop in Switzerland will be Geneva, for the fantastic views of Lac Léman i.e. Lake Geneva. We won’t be spending too much time there, given how expensive the city is. Hotel prices come down over the weekend though, so we’ll try to time the journey accordingly.

Image credit: By fr:Utilisateur:Ork.ch – http://www.ork.ch, fr:Image:Geneve_2005_001_Ork.ch.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1814711

It’s not easy to find a restaurant in Singapore that serves cheese fondue, and we had a nice pot of 50% Gruyère and 50% Vacherin in Wine Universe at Millenia Walk last year. When we’re in Geneva, we’ll definitely find a few places to stuff our faces.

The ride to Paris will be on the high-speed TGV Lyria, which will take about three and a half hours to reach Gare de Lyon. I’ll use my Marriott Bonvoy points accumulated from numerous work trips to redeem for five nights in one of the many hotels in the city.

Clearly Paris has many interesting neighbourhoods, attractions, restaurants, cafes and patisseries to explore, but the highlight for me will be a return visit to the Musée d’Orsay. I remember spending an entire day there more than 20 years ago, when I was backpacking through Europe just after graduation. This time, I’ll bring The Wife.

Image credit: Daniel Vorndran / DXR [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

Oh, and there’s also the other famous museum that we’ll need to visit. But this one will definitely need more than a day. If it’s not closed for strikes, that is.

Image credit: Benh LIEU SONG [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

We’ll end our journey in Amsterdam and enjoy views of it’s many beautiful canals. It won’t be tulip season then, but there will be many restaurants serving Rijsttafel, a legacy of Dutch colonial times in Indonesia. And of course, no visits to any “coffeeshops” there, because Singapore.

Image credit: Peter K Burian [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

All in all, it’ll probably be closer to a three week trip with 3-5 days in each city. One issue is the current Covid-19 global outbreak, which is still on-going with unclear signs as to when it will eventually subside.

And even when the virus subsides, there will invariably be lingering concerns by locals about Chinese-looking tourists, potentially resulting in bad service and an unpleasant vacation.

For now, we’ll book our flights and hotels on cancellable rates, and decide closer to the date whether to proceed this year or push it back to a later date. Otherwise, here’s what the high-level itinerary looks like.

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