Visiting Switzerland usually leaves travellers to see only the “postcard” version of what the country is all about, hopping from one capital to the next, jumping from “must-see” to “must-see”. Today, our generation is in search of much more than that – we want to go where the tourist buses don’t go, exploring the hidden-gems and seeing the behind-the-scenes of a country, not just its façade.
For those who want to do so by just sitting back and relaxing, we’ve got just what you need: David, a delightful expat who’s lived in the region for many years, and who has had more lives than a cat. Amongst many other things, he’s been in IT, was a champion cyclist, and now juggles between his B&B, his job and giving tourists and locals alike a new interpretation of what the Swiss “must-sees” really are… off the beaten-track, literally. David and his 4 x 4 offer off-road high-level personalised tours around Lake Geneva and the “Pays d’en Haut” region.
We met David one sunny morning, ready to (re)discover Switzerland! His welcome was warm and friendly, and he immediately offered us refreshments (including what he calls “American Champagne” a.k.a. Coca Cola). First stop – the Lavaux, an area where Max and I always love going to time and time again. But David surprised us with a little jewel we never knew existed: a picnic table set up overlooking the lake, the plunging mountains, the fall-coloured-vineyards and the postcard-perfect villages. The surprise isn’t over yet; on the table, waiting for us is some Swiss chocolate! I have to say, I’ve never eaten chocolate in a setting quite like this one.
We then roam through the backroads of the vineyards, drive by the Chateau d’Aigle and then on to our next destination, the pays d’En haut where I always like to say, the real Switzerland begins: the authentic wooden chalets with the scripture from back in the day, the Swiss flag at every doorstep, the cows, the mountains, and the green rolling valleys. From Chateau d’Oex, David takes back-roads I wouldn’t dare doing with my own car, up the mountain and over to the next diamond in the rough: a gorgeous lake, surrounded by impressive mountains, at the end of which there is an authentic little chalet serving some very delicious Swiss food (hands down, one of the best Rösti I’ve eaten!)
We enjoyed lunch in this gorgeous setting, sharing stories and a few laughs, and then heading off to continue the drive into Saanenland, and then up, up… and further up, on tiny little back-roads (the ones where you pray nobody is coming from the other direction), and then off the road… to a breath-taking spot very few know about. The pictures speak for themselves here. (I must say I really appreciated David’s flexibility and patience, especially for my continuous picture-taking for which he stopped for just about every 5 minutes, just to get the perfect angle.)
After thoroughly enjoying the beauty that was in front of us, and that we are so fortunate to have on our doorstep, we then continued onwards to the region of Gruyeres, passing by scenic landscapes, one more beautiful than the other. What better way to finish the day than in a wonderful little dairy farm, hidden on back-roads, behind a forest in a valley… how David found out about this little farm is still a mystery to me.
We were just in time for the feeding of the little calves born the day before, which still had a little trouble standing on their four feet… but boy were they hungry! The farm keeper, Chantal, was an inspiring lady who kept her good mood and wit intact, despite the long, long hours of work… 7 days a week. Her husband, Martin, is also very jovial, and was happy to show us around and answer questions. David bought us some of their delicious cheese as a souvenir, and off we were, back home, under the sky which seemed to be on fire with an explosion of colors.