Christine’s trip to Switzerland with Air Canada and Tourism Switzerland
I recently had a wonderful opportunity to attend a 7-day educational visit to Switzerland, hosted by both Air Canada and Tourism Switzerland.
A precedent-setting trip created by both Air Canada and Tourism Switzerland to welcome back travel, the re-opening of countries, the resumption of flights and to show us it is possible to travel safely and continue exploring our world, something we have been unable to freely do these past 18 months.
With the travel industry having been one of the hardest-hit sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic and now that vaccines are beginning to allow us to resume life, it was exciting to be able to travel again. With new travel requirements; mandatory masks on flights, the requirement of negative COVID test results and/or vaccination certificates and all the other standard safety regulations that have become normal for travel, this was an excellent opportunity to experience International travel again, first hand.
Flying directly from Toronto to Zurich on Air Canada was a comfortable, overnight experience. Upon arrival into Zurich, we proceeded easily through customs and immigration. A negative COVID-19 test was not necessarily required, but those entering the country are required to be fully vaccinated.
Zurich Airport is a great hub for any destination you may choose to visit in Switzerland. The train station is located at the airport and is the most convenient mode of transportation to wherever your itinerary takes you in Switzerland.
Both comfortable and relaxing, we took the train to Basel where we were scheduled to spend the next few days exploring the city and meeting with Swiss Representatives and Swiss Tourism suppliers.
Basel, known as Switzerland’s Cultural Capital has over 40 museums, art galleries and theatres.
Home to Switzerland’s Symphony and Chamber Orchestras and the famous Stadtcasino, built in 1826 and decorated throughout in luxurious red, is known as one of the best concert halls in the world due to its amazing acoustics.
Basel Old Town is where you will find The Basel Cathedral, Town Hall and Marktplatz, an area to truly immerse yourself in everyday life, eating, shopping, browsing through the quaint streets and enjoying life like a local.
Located on the Rhine in northern Switzerland, Basel borders both Germany and France, an area known as the three countries corner.
Many river cruises include Basel, a popular stop, in their itineraries. The parks and banks along the Rhine extend for miles and offers a great place for both locals and visitors to relax and enjoy the passing boats or enjoy one of the outdoor cafés. If you want to say you’ve swum in the Rhine, even that is possible. Just pack up your Wicklefisch, hold on and let the river take you downstream. It is such a popular activity with both locals and tourists, that a Wicklefisch - a ‘dry bag’ that comes in various sizes to hold your towel, purse, clothes, phone, etc., and puffs up when closed to act as a floating device - is easily available for purchase at many drugstores.
Getting around Basel is easy, whether by foot or by tram… or even floating down the Rhine.
A great perk offered to those staying at a hotel in Basel is a complimentary BaselCard provided to you at check-in. The BaselCard offers visitors complimentary bus and tram service, 50% off many attractions, free Wi-Fi and discounted e-bike rentals–a wonderful cost-saving perk while visiting the city.
From Basel, we made our way by train to Gstaad, the famous upscale ski resort in the Swiss Alps. It is roughly a three-hour train ride that requires two connections on route. The journey between Zweisimmon – Gstaad being on The Golden Pass Panoramic Train that offers travellers a sky view to fully enjoy the amazing scenery.
Speaking of the scenery, it was enchanting, with rolling hills and charming chalets dotting the hillsides, and the dairy cows grazing on lush farmland. Picturesque Switzerland at its best–it was exactly what I had imagined it to be.
A quaint, boutique town, Gstaad is a mix of outdoor cafés, boutique hotels and shopping. Gstaad’s tag line is ‘Come up and slow down’, a perfect suggestion for this beautiful area. I would agree that a visit here is a nice way to relax and really enjoy nature at its best. You may even be fortunate enough to see a dairy farmer ‘move house’, a parade of their cows decorated with flowered crowns and bells ringing from their necks proudly being herded down the street for the tourists and residents to admire and enjoy. Seriously–it feels straight from a fairy tale.
Being a mountain resort, E-biking and hiking through the countryside are very popular activities for those visiting the area during the summer months. There are countless trails, lakes and waterfalls to admire and surprisingly, you have no worry of bears or cougars to be on the lookout for. This was something I was initially concerned about, especially being from B.C. So I asked only to be told that no, this region had no predators to be concerned about.
A visit to Glacier 3000 was another stop for us. Glacier 3000 gives visitors the opportunity to take a tram up the mountain, an outlook where you can walk the peak-to-peak Tissot suspension bridge and look out high above the Alps where you can see, in the distance, The Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Jungfrau and other popular Swiss Mountain peaks. Here you can walk up to the Glacier or even take a ride on a Snow Bus.
An exhilarating opportunity you simply can’t miss is the Alpine Coaster. I almost passed this up because of my extreme fear of rollercoasters however, with some encouragement and self-pressure (because I knew I would probably kick myself later if I didn’t do it) I sat in my coaster and was on my way. With the option of either a two-seater to share or an individual coaster (and kudos to me, I went solo); you control the speed. If fast is your speed, go for it, or if you prefer to go it slower and enjoy the scenery, it is your choice. Having done it I can say that it really is one activity everyone would enjoy.
The Restaurant Botta is a nice stop where you can enjoy everything from a small snack to a full course meal or just a glass of wine. A nice way to end a visit and enjoy the panoramic views.
While my trip to Switzerland was short, there is so much more I want to go back to see and experience. I can’t say enough about how good it felt to travel again.
Yes, there are changes to how we travel now but nothing takes away from the exhilaration of seeing new sights and experiencing the culture and the true flavours of the world, right where they originate.
The excitement of travel has not gone away, it has only been amplified.