Gentle music echoes through the breakfast room as I sample the continental buffet on offer, savouring sweet toast and some indulgent pain au chocolate. After a quick check of our bags and a few extra layers thrown on, it’s straight to the station for a train to Montreux. On route we pass through idyllic farmlands, urban sprawl and catch a brief vista over the aquamarine waters of Lake Geneva, before disembarking into the dark and cool concrete station, in complete contrast to the colourful thoroughfare in Geneva. Having checked the ticket times of our cog railway journey, my father and I venture across the road for a quick refreshment break in a coffee shop. Then, before we know it, its time for our imminent departure for our scenic journey into the Alps…
With a window seat looking out over the mountainside as we ascended, the cogs set into motion on the track beneath us as we began our climb up to the scenic lookout of Rochers de Naye. Quickly rising high beyond the vast lake below us, we as wound up the steep ascent, through tunnels, by alpine lodges, and old stations, through the thick forests suddenly covered with snow, as if we’d transcended a portal to another realm on our way up.
Ascending you could see the weather getting steadily more prominent with more and more snow, until our view outside became a total white-out, a small blizzard blaring as we stepped off the train into an icy tundra. Though a tad disappointed that we wouldn’t be graced with the stunning panoramic vistas once imagined from research, I was equally enthralled by my venture into the snowy foray around me. We still made the most of our hour at leisure in close confides, dismissing the posh restaurant though beautiful, for two ice cold beers from the takeaway counter and ventured outside, until we couldn’t feel our hands. Despite the frost-bite, it was most definitely worth it.
Due to the freezing conditions, we really couldn’t spend too long up there and in time we made our gradual descent downwards in the dwindling afternoon light that broke through the snow clouds. Hopping swiftly off at the station as the afternoon light began to gently dwindle, we went in search free festive drinks we could claim with our train fare at the Montreux Noel Christmas Market. It took a few attempts and several ID checks before we eventually found the stall at the furthest end of the promenade. Sheltered beneath the festive décor of the covered market we warmed ourselves with mulled wine and struggled to decided on which hot delicacies to taste from the neighbouring stalls.
We soak up the jovial atmosphere just happy to be alive and sharing in such celebration after another year of restrictions. Despite my initial excitement, this soon settles as contentment, watching Santa’s sleigh fly by in the distance across the lake, like magic some might say… Music played out, the cool air nipping at our fingers and toes. I gazed up to the colourful Ferris wheel outside, a glistening reindeer off-set by the snowy backdrop of the Alps, as the sun was just about to set beyond the farthest horizon.
We wander back along the now busy thoroughfare, stopping briefly to gaze at a handful of stalls as the evening sky falls to darkness. After eyeing up some festive decorations for the tree back home, I deliberate for some time, ogling the sparkling handicrafts. To my father’s dismay, I do pick up a handful of keepsakes, insisting their essential, I mean what’s a visit to the markets without a memory to bring home right? The brisk night air is infused with a mixture of Swiss cheese and spices, the endless line of chalets aglow with coloured lights, the crowds pushing their way through on mass – a sign for us to go. It was a lovely end to an enthralling day of gentle exploration.
One of the main benefits of Geneva is its geographical location as it is split across the border of both Switzerland and France, meaning that you can experience the best cuisine and culture of two countries simultaneously during your stay. If we’d been able to stay around longer I would perhaps have combined our visit with a day visiting the French markets, but quite honestly, I was more than content exploring the seasonal offerings scattered round this enchanting lakeside vista. Maybe next year…