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June 23, 2010

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                    LAUSANNE

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Bonjour from Lausanne! Well, not really, but I wrote most of this while I was still in Switzerland. If you are following me on Twitter (@JohnnyJet) then you know I'm really in Erie, PA, for a long Father's Day weekend before going to NYC to speak at TBEX. This week's edition of Johnny Jet's Travel News is a wrap up of my trip to Switzerland and my flight home on SWISS in their brand-new business-class seats. We flew right over the Iceland volcano so I was able to get some great snaps.

Last week I left off from Zurich, Switzerland, where I was on their tourism board's first-ever blogger-only press trip. From the main train station downtown, the nine of us took an easy, smooth, scenic two-hour Intercity train to Lausanne. The journey was just a couple hundred miles, but there were a lot of noticeable changes, including the scenery, weather, architecture, and the locals' attitudes. But the biggest difference was the primary language (in conversation and on street signs and menus…), which went from German to French. How incredible is that?

We were provided first-class rail tickets from (I always use them when traveling in Europe, regardless of who's footing the bill). It doesn't matter what class you are in, everyone is welcome to use the dining car, and I spent most of my time in there. Reservations are not required, but it's a good idea since there aren't many tables. I love dining cars, especially in Europe-they are so romantic and scenic. The downside is that the food usually isn't too good. This trip, I sat across from Natalie at a two-top table while our other colleagues were at neighboring two- and four-tops. We passed countless fields of rapeseed (they make canola oil from it).

The sole waiter was a nice guy originally from Bangladesh who wore Prada glasses and probably spoke more languages than the Pope. I ordered Nasi Goreng (17 euros), an Asian rice dish with vegetables and chicken. It was okay, but Natalie's Spaghetti Napoli (19.50 euros) was barely edible for someone with Italian roots like me. I know what you are thinking, and believe me, I said the same thing to her-Why would you order spaghetti on a train in Switzerland? Some people have to learn the hard way.

Lausanne, pronunced lo'zan, located in Romandy, is the capital of the canton of Vaud. It's like a clean, well-organized France. It's situated on the shores of Lake Leman and has an amazing view of the Jura Mountains and the French town of Évian-les-Bains. The city is famous for justice within Switzerland, its ballet, and the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee and Olympic Museum.

As soon as I arrived, I updated my Facebook and Twitter pages, and recommendations and tips started flowing in. The most noted was to visit the Olympic Museum (Musée Olympique Lausanne), and I really enjoyed it, especially the gardens and the displays of all the different Olympic torches over the years. I would've liked to have seen more of that, especially with the medals, but maybe that's the plan, as they are getting a bigger and better museum in 2014. Note: I heard the museum will be closed from 2012 to 2014. Other highlights included a display of half-naked fit Olympic athletes and a machine to measure your body fat. I also enjoyed seeing the Ancient Greek Olympic artifacts and of course the jersey of the USA's 1980 hockey team. Price of admission: Adults (ages 17–65) 15CHF, senior citizens, students, disabled, unemployed, Swiss military, and children (ages 6–16) 10CHF.

NOTE: 1.00 Swiss Franc (CHF) = $0.90 United States Dollar (USD)

DID YOU KNOW: The Olympic Museum is the second most visited museum in Switzerland. The first is the Transportation Museum in Lucerne.

The other spot that was highly recommended was the Ouchy. Once a fishing village, it's now the most popular and prestigious part of the city. This bustling lakeside is filled with tourists, rollerbladers, and joggers, all enjoying the incredible views of the lake and the Alps. There are a bunch of hotels down here, including the one I stayed at. Ouchy highlights included getting a gelato and sitting on the rocks, strolling through its farmers market (Sundays) and going for a one-hour solar-powered boat ride (12CHF for adults, 8CHF for children see their website for more info). Doesn't Captain Oliver look like an attractive Bluto from Popeye?

On the way to the harbor to catch the boat we walked by a small farm. Guess who scored a Swiss kiss from a cow? Natalie snapped it at the perfect time, making it probably the funniest picture of me ever.

If you go on the boat ride, be sure to stop in at the marina clubhouse for a slice of homemade fresh-baked hot apple strudel-it might be the best 3CHF you'll spend on a treat in Lausanne.

I was fortunate to be staying at one of the city's top hotels, the 75-room Angleterre & Residence. It's rated four stars and is sister property to neighboring five-star Beau-Rivage Palace (see their website for more). The Angleterre & Residence is divided into six pavilions dating from the 18th, 19th, and 21st centuries that combine hotel rooms and residences (they rent out some of the residences for short stays). Both room types are beautiful, comfortable, and spacious. The king-size beds come with two full-size comforters so you won't disturb your bedmate with your tossing, turning, or trying to hog the covers. They have the best blackout electrical curtains around, and the walls are solid so you can't hear your neighbors. Unfortunately, the windows don't have screens, so you can't enjoy the lake's cool, crisp air without letting the mosquitoes in.

Other hotel notables include the marble bathroom that has a separate shower and tub, free ethernet Internet access, and the chocolates and Gummi bears left by the maids as part of their daily service. Most rates include breakfast in the lakeside Italian restaurant that has a modern glass chandelier, with items such as fresh baguettes, fine cheeses, and pineapple skewers. Angleterre & Residence, Place du Port 11, 1006 Lausanne; Tel.: +41 (0)21 613 34 34.

GOOD TO KNOW: Lausanne has 300 water fountains and all but about 10 of them are potable, so no need to buy bottled water.

Lausanne is built on three rocky hills and is small and very walkable, but if you don't feel like having a good workout there is an easy-to-use 28-station metro system that was just built in 2008. It's the first metro built in Switzerland and supposedly has the records for the steepest (12 percent grade) metro in the world and the smallest city in the world to have a rapid transit system. It costs 2.50CHF but a valid Swiss Rail pass also works. FYI: I didn't see anyone get checked to see if they had a ticket or not.

The closest major airport to Lausanne is Geneva International, which is 40 minutes away and much cheaper to reach by train (23CHF one way for a second-class ticket). The cost for a taxi is 213CHF.

Besides strolling the streets, people-watching and window-shopping, you won't want to miss the medieval Notre Dame cathedral. It was built in 1275 and was transformed from Catholic to Protestant. Entry is free and every Friday in August there's a free concert. NOTE: According to our tour guide, Protestants don't mind noise or photos, so feel free to snap away.

The coolest part about the church is that it still has nightly watchmen. At the beginning of the 20th century, the means of watching by night were modernized and the watchmen's jobs were retired in all European cities except for Lausanne. Every night all year round, one person stays in the tower at the top of the cathedral to shout out the hours from the four cardinal points. For more info, read my colleague Everett Potter's story.

The only thing I don't really like about the Swiss is that they follow the rules like you wouldn't believe. On our tour we stopped in the mall to use the loo and the woman behind the counter in one of the shops wouldn't give our guide the key to the restroom because she didn't have authorization. What a joke, huh?

The newest and hippest bar in Lausanne is called Les Arches (The Arches). It's built under the four stone arches of the city's main bridge, which used to be the place where all the drunks came to pee. The whole Flon area has been redeveloped and now is the trendy part of town. While we enjoyed a drink, the owner told us they weren't allowed to touch the walls or arches, so they installed wood flooring platforms and added aluminum tables, chairs, and a rectangular bar. There are no doors; they lock up the bar by lowering a metal box to cover it. Les Arches is open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.; the Lausanne-Flon metro stop is right next door.

If you love architecture, you will want to take a walk around the Rolex Learning Center-or at least have lunch in their restaurant. It's a new (opened in May) conference and meeting venue of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). The futuristic construction is in the shape of a wave, and there are no real stairs. EPFL has 7,000 students and 4,000 professors; 60 percent of the PhD students come from abroad to study technology. For more, see

Switzerland has to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I remember that when my brother got married in Zermatt, my head was spinning from all the beauty. Another place where my head spun was in Chexbres, which is a 20-minute drive from Lausanne.

Chexbres is a wine-growing village on the northeast shore of Lake Geneva. It was an important settlement in Roman times, and they have mountainside vineyards that can be traced back to the 11th century. The area is so beautiful that UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. It's one of seven vineyard regions around the world to receive this prestigious honor-a few years ago I went to Portugal's Douro Valley, one of the other World Heritage vineyards, and this place reminded me of it with its views.

Two hundred families in the area have wineries; they mostly produce white wine. We stopped off at Domaine Bovy, which has been in the Bovy family since the 17th century. We toured their facility and learned that their oak barrels last for 300 years and can hold up to 5,000 liters (1,200 gallons). The barrels are colorful thanks to Eric Bovy's grandfather and cousin, who painted them with joyful drinking scenes. Domaine Bovy produce 250,000 bottles a year. Reservations are required for tours and cost 15CHF, which includes tasting of five wines. FYI: The Bovys also have an apartment that accommodates 2 to 4 people. It costs 800 to 1,200CHF a week.

My last day I spent in Montreux, which is just 10–15 minutes from Chexbres. Montreux is famous for its Jazz Festival, and I was fortunate to meet the founder, Claude Nobs, at his home. The festival has been around since 1967 and is one of the most famous music festivals, if not the most famous, to date. It began with solely jazz performers, but today pretty much every imaginable music style is represented, and everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Prince has performed. It takes place every July, lasting about two weeks and attracting more than 200,000 people.

A simple and fun place to stay is the three-star Tralala Hotel. It's in Les Planches, a quiet part of the city. It has Montreux Jazz Festival–themed rooms, and the hallways have huge drawings of jazz performers-there's even one of Claude Nobs. They have free Wi-Fi, the hangers are behind a curtain above the desk (space is limited), and there's a small flat-screen TV. It costs just $120 a night.

Click here to see my slide show about my Zurich to New York flight on SWISS. I tested out their new business-class seats and we flew right over the Iceland volcano.

Pictures from TBEX and London stories.

*PLEASE tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

Note: This trip was sponsored in part by OpenSkies

Copyright 2010 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip



Zurich Train Station


Dining Car


Streets of Lausanne


Palais of Justice


Olympic Museum


Olympic Flame


The Entrance




Walking to Ouchy


View from Ouchy


Captain Bluto


Captain Good Looking


Lake Leman


Angleterre & Residence


Front Desk






Hotel Pool






Inside Metro


Les Arches Bar


Inside Bar


Getting Denied into MAD Bar


Farmers Market


Swiss Kiss


Rolex Learning Center


Notre Dame Cathedral


Cathedral Close-Up


Rev Johnny


Night Watchmen




Domaine Bovy


White Wine




Freddie Mercury


Claude Nobs


Claude's Office


Sound of Music? (wrong country)


Next Week


  • Biggest Switzerland news today: They beat Spain in the World Cup. A huge upset! – Dan Woog

  • Johnny Jet is in Switzerland and Claire Walter is envious. My favorite country.

  • WOW- I want to be there. Tracy P – Los Angeles, CA

  • I was going to recommend that one for you. You and a hanger full of planes=perfect afternoon. Mark D – Washington DC

  • Excellent! Lovely country to visit! Richard E

  • Love the Paris video! Thanks for sharing...Paula B - Maryland

  • *** Buy Your Johnny Jet T-Shirts/Hats

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