By Don and Linda Freedman

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SWITZERLAND Spring 2000 (1)


Yverdon, Murten and Fribourg, Chateau d'Oex, Thun and Zurich

Our KLM flight from Amsterdam to Zurich arrived 15 minutes early giving us plenty of time to make our connection to the 16:39 train to Biel-Bienne. We continue to use Rail Europe as our resource for European rail requirements. We would overnight in Biel-Bienne and be joined by our dear friend Fabio the next morning to motor to Yverdon-Les-Bains where Fabio's wife, Cornelia, would join us for a weekend of thermal bathing and touring.

Biel (Bienne in French) is a delightful town on Lake Neuchatel in the French part of Switzerland. You might like to read about our last visit to Biel, which includes detail about the town.

It was a few minutes walk from the Bahnhof up Bahnhofstrasse to #14, the Hotel Elite. This is a perfect location for easily touring from the beautiful lakefront to the old town and everything in-between. The hotel had recently been renovated and only the lobby area needed to be completed. The soft yellow and rich blue color scheme is carried throughout, as well the fine wood and steel furniture and trim.

Our large room was divided into a sitting room and bedroom by a two-pillared bar with a swivel T.V. on top. The floor-to-ceiling windows and door, draped in an attractive blue/yellow fabric, opened to a large balcony with a terrific mountain view. The sitting area was furnished with a sofa, two chairs, a desk and a table and the soft yellow walls were accented with black and white framed photos. One of the nice extras was two firm benches for luggage; we've so often wondered why hotels normally provide just one. The twin beds were firm with lovely coverings and the pillows were not only fluffy but two extras were supplied, without us having to ask. Smoked glass doors led to the two tiled bathrooms, one with bath/shower and double sinks and the other with a toilet and sink.

The receptionist recommended the Trattoria Italia, Spitalstrasse 26, just a few blocks from the hotel alongside the canal that runs through the city. It was a bit too cool to consider having our meal outside on the pleasant porch so we sat inside in the mostly pink dining room where there's also a large bar surrounded by comfortable seating. Paintings of Italy with a seaside theme decorate the walls and there are pretty plants throughout the restaurant. For dinner we shared three selections from the menu - a tomato and onion salad, spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and hot peppers and a pizza with tomato, mozzarella, arugula and parmesan - basic choices, but well done and most enjoyable.

After a wonderful night's sleep, we were at it again in the attractive hotel restaurant enjoying a variety of Swiss breads (they are the best) and all the goodies one might want. Fabulous Fabio arrived at 10:00 and we were off driving south along the west bank of Lake Neuchatel. After a brief stop at a charming marina in Neuchatel to enjoy the clean fresh air and the delicious aromas of the flowering trees, we headed to nearby Colombier. The preserved villages in this area are gorgeous, situated along the lake and surrounded by vineyards with the Jura mountains that divide Switzerland from France looming in the background.

Colombier is home to a magnificent restored fort, which is used as a training base for the Swiss army. As we drove up, soldiers were streaming out having just completed their annual tour of duty. Since Fabio had served here, he knew his way around and was able to gain entry to show us the officers' mess, open to the public as a restaurant when not in use by the army. It is breathtaking, constructed of stone with wooden beams and dominated by a massive fireplace. Military artifacts and art decorate the walls and there are striking murals, mostly in browns and greens, depicting typical military activities.

Just down the road is the medieval town of Grandson. We navigated through the narrow streets admiring the old buildings and homes and looking for a lunch spot before we visited the major historical attraction of the region, the Grandson Castle.

Chez Tony et Dominique looked attractive and Fabio whipped into the parking area. We were greeted by Tony himself and led to a table in the very busy, large, Italian-feeling dining room. Linda and Fabio had the lunch special, farfalle with smoked salmon in cream sauce, which they enjoyed. I discovered that calzones are not their strong point but the Swiss beer, Boxer Premium, was delicious.

The Castle, sitting high nearby the lake, dominates the town. The tour of the castle is comprehensive, interesting and fun. Some of the highlights are the Knight's Hall, the furnished rooms, the fencing school and the banquet hall that leads to the major attraction, the Old Timer Car Museum.

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