Part III: Switzerland, May 2022
For the next two days our plans have us driving slowly from Bellinzona to Lausanne. It isn’t very far, probably no more than 4 hours, so we will have lots of time to leave the “beaten track” and take some of the Michelin Green Guides’ well-documented drives in the mountains. This first driving day we retraced our route back to Andermatt (because we want to avoid taking the rental car into Italy) and then proceeded on the Goms Driving Tour (via Michelin) through the area of Switzerland best known for all its ski resorts. The Goms (German name) is also referred to as the Val de Conches in French.
We turned up into the mountains, headed for the Furkapass. We stopped to picnic at a James Bond Point. This was our first hint of a connection between the James Bond movies and Switzerland. This particular place was the scene of a notable car chase. The sign was erected by fans to the memory of Sean Connery.
Continuing along the road after lunch, going higher into the mountains, we were foiled by a road closure. It was disappointing to have to turn around and drive all the way back down, but not one of us was sorry we had seen the mountains up so close.
Driving back down, as the designated navigator, I was searching the map and the GPS to figure out how we could continue from there to Sion, which is our stopping place for the night…The GPS kept showing me a boat symbol,
as if we were going to take a ferry. [Cue sarcasm.] Right! A ferry! We’re in the mountains!
The joke was on us! We did take a ferry. Of sorts. We lined up with the other cars, and then drove onto a train. The train ferried us through a tunnel under the mountains. A first for all of us!
It was a little scary. Or perhaps nerve-wracking is a better adverb. Inside the tunnel it is pitch black. You’re in your automobile on a flatbed train car going who knows where, who knows for how long.
We made it. Of course, we did. It was easy as pie and left us feeling like we’d like to do it again, this time knowing what we were getting into!
[I noticed that there are several of these ferries in this area once I decoded the symbols on our map. And by the way, I suggest you invest in a paper map for driving around Switzerland, especially if you want to explore. GPS is great for getting you to a hotel or a restaurant, but it doesn’t help you drive through the most scenic places without you telling it what route to take. If your experience is the journey, not just the destination, buy a map!]
As we drove through the scenery, back again on our own wheels, we could do nothing but “oooh” and “aaaah.” The Rhone River accompanied us, running alongside the highway, and all we could see were trees and rocks and mountains, cows and grass and chalets on the mountainsides. One vignette after another, each more lovely than the previous.
We arrived in Sion much later than we had anticipated because of our detour at the Furkapass. Our hotel, the Moxy Sion, (a Marriott property) is on the outskirts of the town, so Sion’s medieval center will be a place to put on the list for our next trip to Switzerland. We like the hotel very much! It was spare, modern, brand new and exceptionally clean. We had a quiet evening and dinner on the patio of the restaurant connected to the hotel, the Taure.
Breakfast this morning was in the gas station coffee shop – not as bad as it sounds. We checked out and began to drive down the Valle d’Herrens. The route started practically at the door to our hotel.
The Val D’Herrens, a two-starred Michelin driving tour, promised us picturesque views of Switzerland, that is living postcards. That wasn’t exactly the experience we had, but this scenic detour into the mountains that gave us glimpses of the Matterhorn and several other enormous peaks , like the Dent Blanche, all over 14,000 ft. We were driving through the area of the tallest mountains of the Swiss Alpes.
Satisfiying my insistent craving for interesting rock formations, the route took us right to and under the Pyramides d’Euseigne. This is a ridge of very soft rock, laid bare by erosion. The ridge takes the form of pointed peaks, each one capped by a harder boulder that has protected the sedimentary morainic rock underneath it. The named formation is the largest of these formations, but we could see them poking up through the vegetation on the steep hillsides all around us.
The route continues from there into two lovely villages, Evolène and Les Haudères, where we did not find Swiss maids toiling in the fields, but we did see many interesting and typical buildings.
We retraced our route back to Sion and continued on towards Lake Geneva, passing Martigny, St Maurice and Aigle on the way to Villeneuve. The final part of this drive was in low, flat land, the giant mountains now behind us and to the south.
It was lunchtime when we reached Villeneuve, a town along Lake Geneva, also known in Switzerland as Lac Leman. We lunched on fried perch at a restaurant called Du Nord (also a hotel) with a view of the lake. The good weather is still with us, though it is beginning to get quite hot. We had packed for cooler weather…
After lunch, we walked along the lake for a while to encourage our bodies to stay awake for the remainder of our drive to Lausanne. It is one of those lovely, sleepy afternoons. It is calling us to just sit by the side of the lake a dream awhile.
Keep reading: Lausanne is up next.