Having been to Switzerland numerous times, on my recent trip I decided to bypass most of the major cities, including Zurich and Bern. Instead, I constructed a circular two-week itinerary designed to focus on two of the country’s major lakes and its most spectacular mountain scenery. Travel in Switzerland is always extremely enjoyable and hassle-free. Everything is clean; everything works; and the people are invariably well-dressed, dazzlingly multilingual and conscientiously hospitable to strangers. The roads are excellent, and the rail network is one of the most comprehensive and efficient in the world. Also, it is not a big country — slightly larger than Maryland, but less than half the area of Maine — and the driving distances tend to be small.
Switzerland is famous for its Belle Epoque grand hotels, but on this occasion I went primarily in search of hideaways. Although I suffered a few disappointments, I discovered a charming boutique hotel in the Old Town of Geneva, a striking art nouveau villa high on a mountainside above Lake Lucerne, two delightful family-owned inns set amid the unspoiled scenery of the Engadine valley and an idiosyncratic family-owned property in Zermatt with unobstructed views of the Matterhorn.
Having traversed the country from west to east by car, I retraced my steps by train, first taking the famous Glacier Express from St. Moritz to Zermatt. The scenic narrow-gauge line goes through 91 tunnels, crosses 291 bridges and reaches 6,706 feet at the top of the Oberalp Pass. Although the journey is a distance of less than 200 miles, it takes 8½ hours.
To research the second story in this issue, I passed an exceptionally agreeable week in the dramatic Canadian city of Vancouver. I stayed in four different hotels — two of which I enjoyed — and sampled delicious Asian-fusion cuisine in a number of new restaurants. I also found time to visit several galleries, to hike in Capilano River Regional Park and to take a foodie tour of Granville Island Public Market.