I chose Montreux to stay for our first visit to Switzerland because I felt it would give us a good base to experience the Switzerland we had read about as children in our Heidi Christmas annuals and on the front of our boxes of chocolates! I don't mean to imply that we wanted "theme-park Switzerland" but I was originally going to stay at Geneva and I felt that this might be more of a city experience rather than lush meadows, distant mountains and the sound of cow bells. We weren't disappointed - it was just as we imagined. I even recorded the sound of the cow bells on my camera.
On landing at Geneva airport my husband sprung upon me that he would quite like to hire a car rather than take the many rail journeys I had meticulously planned. That is men for you! so we went to the Hertz desk and had a problem free 4 day car rental (tiny car but excellent air-conditioning) for £158 (352 CHF). We only spent 43 CHF (£20) on petrol so this probably worked out either the same or less than the journeys I had planned as the Swiss trains are pretty expensive.
It took us less than an hour to drive to Montreux and we parked smack bang outside our hotel The Suisse Majestic as it was after 7pm.(we just had to make sure we were up at 7 am to put another 2 hours parking on the meter before we set off for the day but this was better than the 25 Chf they charged for parking overnight at the railway station. The railway station is directly opposite the Suisse Majestic by the way which was why I chose it pre-car--hire-decision!
Our hotel was in theory a block back from the lake but in reality there were no buildings infront of the rooms so the views were sensational. We had a small balcony where we would have watched the sunset had they been any earlier but at after 9 pm we had usually gone for dinner. This was in June so different times of the year might be better for enjoying the sunset.
Our first day was jam-packed - get my husband behind the wheel of a car and he just can't seem to stay stationary. We went to Gruyere first which is an extremely pretty village which specializes in cheese making and has a rather grand castle which was very interesting to look around. We arrived about 9 am which I think was to our advantage as we read on a board infront of the town that it attracted 6 million visitors a year. We were among only about a dozen which was obviously more pleasant.
After leaving Gruyere we drove to the foot of Moleson and left the car there as we took first a funicular and then a cable car (gondola??) to the top of Moleson 2000+ metres I think. Very impressive and not as scary as I thought it would be. at 28 CHF it wasn't cheap though. It was even lovelier than expected at the cafe at the top as all of a sudden a party of about 20 people started singing either swiss/french songs in harmony if only they had been dressed in nuns habits - it would have made another childhood dream a reality!.
After leaving Moleson we went on the the Nestle factory and I can't remember the name of the village but it was - yet again - very pretty. The factory wasn't really very interesting but you could eat as many chocolates as you liked. I had four! There is an entrance fee now although my guide book had said it was free.
Next we headed back to Montreux and Castle Chillon which is only a ten minute drive down the road. It was maybe a bit of a mistake to do TW0!!! castles in one day but first days can sometimes be like that can't they? we chilled out on the other days which I will have to put in part two as this is getting a little lengthy!