Since it’s our home Canton, we thought we knew Vaud pretty well so it was great to learn that there are still plenty of treasures to discover in our region.
We set off early on a Sunday morning in February and after a week which saw 19degrees and sunshine followed by snow, we decided to err on the side of caution and wear warm clothes and plenty of layers. Our destination was beautiful Château-d’Oex and we were travelling there in style! We left our car at Montreux train station and headed for the MOB GoldenPass platform where we were taking the Belle Epoque train. If you are a fan of Switzerland, you have probably seen pictures of this stunning train - we certainly had and we could believe we were fortunate enough to try it.
A real return to the luxury of great trains of the past, the Belle Epoque is a sumptuous treat of a train ride with plush seats and beautiful ornate decorations. Jude thought it reminded him of the train in Harry Potter (or Happy Popper as Alba calls him) and found it extremely exciting to choose his seat and settle in for the ride.
We decided to take the pushchair for this outing so we folded that and left it in the luggage area while I held Elio on my lap and the soothing movement of the train meant he was quiet as a mouse and was happy to watch what was going on around him. The scenery is spectacular! We climbed up through Montreux with the view of the lake and mountains emerging as we went, and Jude and Alba were excited to see the sudden increase in snow when we left a particular tunnel! The hour long journey went really quickly and we were soon disembarking at Château d’Oex. Our first stop was the tourism office to meet with Alexandre and collect the information for our first activity. It’s a short walk and we received a warm welcome on our arrival when Alexandre gave us a booklet with details of a trail to do around the village. It’s a great idea where you go from point to point on the map looking for decoupage exhibits which are displayed in various locations. In the booklet is a question to answer about each picture and completed entries have a chance to win a decoupage of your very own!!
We set off for the closest on the map which led us uphill to the church, which offers an incredible 360 degree view of the region. It’s such a good idea and a great way of discovering the village as you walk from one exhibit to the next. The children soon got the hang of what we were looking for and raced ahead to find each clue on our map. We were fortunate to have a lovely sunny day which really made it a lovely family activity.
The map took us to a nice playground so we paused for a while to let the children play before heading to the last point on our map which was the riding school!
No, we weren’t about to witness the sight of Jean riding a horse, we were here for lunch! More precisely we were trying the Char à fondue which is a full fondue meal on a horse drawn carriage!! When we first heard about this idea we were so excited and couldn’t wait to try and it really didn’t disappoint. We had to give some thought to how to manage Elio and we decided that we would take his pushchair with a detachable chair part and strap him onto the bench and it worked perfectly. After we said hello to the horses, we clambered aboard the covered carriage, lit the flame under the fondue pot and began our ride! What an experience!
The ride took us in a big loop through the village and the outskirts with wonderful views of the countryside and mountains at every turn. The food was great and we all loved the novelty of it. Alba likes to manage her own fondue these days and did a brilliant job controlling her food even over the bumps! It was clearly pretty tiring though as the gentle movement of the carriage meant she kept falling asleep as soon as she finished eating. I asked if she would like to lie on my lap and she slurred “nooooo I want more luuuunch”! Jude is a pro by now and demolished his share washed down with some delicious warm tea while Jean and I opted for some white wine. We had already fed Elio so he was free to enjoy the ride and he was so peaceful, we were amazed that he was so calm!
All too soon, we were back at the start and thanking our hosts and the horses for this beautiful experience! Back up to the main road and we arrived at the Espace des Ballons. Outside is the actual vessel that was used in the 1999 trip around the world which is hugely impressive.
Inside the building is a beautiful space and the balloon themed decor was a big hit with the children. There was so much to look at as soon as we walked through the door, it took us a while to move further into the exhibition. There isn’t a lift but the very helpful member of staff who greeted us offered to open the door on the floor above which was accessible from the outside, so Jean did that with Elio and we met in the main room upstairs.
This colourful, modern space is dominated by a huge hot air balloon which we all stood gazing at for a while before exploring the exhibit providing lots of interesting information about the world of hot air ballooning from the science of flying and the first attempts, to the developments over time which made the world tour possible. As hosts of the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival (see our article about that from 2019), it’s fair to say that this is area where Château d’Oex know their stuff. Jean liked the video area where you could hear about the world tour by country visited and I really enjoyed reading the time line of evolution of this mode of transport, while the children made a bee-line for the mezzanine level above which was a young artists heaven with balloon templates for them to colour (Jude rather more seriously than Alba). It’s a really great place. By this time, we were approaching the hour of our return so we headed back to the train station. Our train for the return journey was the Golden Pass Panoramic train which was very different but just as impressive as the Belle Epoque. We installed ourselves comfortably and ordered some soft drinks for the journey. The great thing about this train is the huge windows which offer an impressive view of the scenery beyond and going down we enjoyed looking at the lake coming in to views as we made our winding descent.
We had such a wonderful day and really enjoyed our time discovering more of the Lake Geneva Region. We all agreed that travelling by train was a really special touch and it was nice for Jean to have a break from driving. We worry about Elio on public transport, given his tendency to scream in new places, but he was so calm and relaxed we decided we’ll definitely try this more often. Thank you so much to Vaud Tourism for a wonderful family day out.
Avenue d’Ouchy 60 · CP 1125 · 1001 Lausanne · Suisse
Place du Village 6 · CH-1660 Château-d’Oex, Suisse