It is 10:32am and at 10.38 our train is due for departure from Gare Part Dieu, Lyon, heading to Lausanne, Switzerland. As yet we have not been assigned a platform. Waiting, waiting, waiting………….platform B lights up on the screen.
With a huge adrenalin rush we join the throng of people, who are also waiting for the platform allocation, to race through the busy, crowded station with bags chasing at everyone’s heels.
Suddenly, we are faced with a steep set of stairs consisting of about 50 steps up to the platform. With mild panic, mixed with a dose of frustration, we look for an elevator. Another quick dash across the station in the opposite direction. With one minute to departure we see the train in the distance. Our steps quicken further. We heave our bags in and find our seats and, almost immediately, the doors close and we are quickly on our way to the Swiss Alps.
For the first half hour we wind through French farmlands with flat green fields, quaint stone houses with chimneys billowing smoke and trees dusted in gold just about to shed their leaves for the long, cold winter ahead. We then begin the slow climb through the valleys with their swift flowing streams, noble manor houses and ‘chocolate box‘ cathedral spires. Still in the French countryside, we pass through tunnels and follow pristine rivers and as we pull into Bellegarde, the French Swiss border station, we see our first sight of snow on the mountain tops in the distance.
Surprisingly, the countryside here begins to flatten out again with masses of vineyards climbing up the gentle slopes from the edge of the railway line. We soon pull into Geneva. Here we need to change trains quickly to complete our journey to Lausanne. The Geneva train just happens to be right next door to our platform.
Quickly we make the switch. We are travelling second class so we need to find carriages 6, 7 or 8. The train is quite long as it is going onto Zurich. We need to walk some distance towards the end of the train. On board we try to settle ourselves in but the handle on one of our bags has jammed and will not close down. We try forcing, hitting and even gentle manipulation (accompanied by some well chosen expletives), still no luck, the handle has to remain up. We go to sit down next to a man holding a large metal floor lamp (obviously cheaper in Geneva than Lausanne). One of us grabs hold of the pole (thinking it was part of the train’s safety structure) to brace as the train takes off. At this stage the man is nearly ripped out of his seat as he also has a firm hold of the lamp. In good humour he laughs and says something in French we could not understand. We apologise for our mistake and sit down opposite him.
For the next hour we listen to an older Asian couple in the seats across the aisle rustling through food packages as they eat from a dozen different plastic packets. Finally they mix up some drinks in plastic cups and then suck loudly on fresh tomatoes for the rest of the journey. They are enjoying themselves. From the windows we see more cute Swiss homes dotted around the valley along with more and more vineyards cloaking the hillside. (We learned later that the vineyards around parts of Lake Geneva are world heritage listed.)
The train arrives early in Lausanne and we bid au revoir to our lamp man and the Chinese rustlers. In Lausanne station we firstly need an ATM to obtain Swiss francs. We then call into the tourist office to collect maps and information about Lausanne. Our hotel, the Agora Swiss Night, is very conveniently located, a five minute walk from the train station.
With bags and brochures in hand we make our way to the hotel. It does not have lake views but the rooms are very modern and, at 200€ a night in Lausanne, it is very good value. We soon take the Teddies out of our bags and settle them onto the crisp white sheets (their favourite) because they are exhausted from their morning train travel. They love Lausanne and with snow on the alps they want their socks on, and for good reason, as the temperature is under 10 degrees in mid October and drops to around five degrees in the evening.
Our hotel provides us with a free metro card for use while in Lausanne, so in the afternoon, we catch the train down the hill to Lake Geneva. The lake, with its mirror-like reflection of the postcard lakeside skyline. is stunningly beautiful on this crystal clear day with sun reflecting off the snow capped alps in the distance. Wandering around the lake, taking in the views and having a coffee at one of the oldest cafés in Lausanne in the Autumn sun was just about perfect.
We caught the metro back to our hotel to prepare ourselves for the evening events and two fun filled days of sightseeing in this Swiss lakeside paradise. Un beau rêve vient de commencer!