Grand Tour

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Take in the sights this summer in Switzerland.

If you’re travel plans include a trip to Switzerland for Art Basel, which is held this year from June 18 to 21, be sure to plan enough time for the Grand Tour of Switzerland afterwards. — a route designed by the Swiss National Tourist Office. The route leads 1,000 miles — through four different language-speaking regions, over five Alpine passes to 11 UNESCO World Heritage sites, through two biospheres, and along 22 lakes. Do it by car, train, motorcycle, or even bicycle. By car, it’s recommended that you plan on seven days to complete the route. Do it all or just part of it — for example, from Basel to Geneva. Duration depends on mode of transportation and whether you tend to speed along or take your time. There are also Harley Davidson-motorcycle tours. Here are some insider tips on what to see and do in art, culture, and music on your summer grand tour:

BASEL: ART & ARCHITECTURE

Start the Grand Tour in Basel. The city of culture for connoisseurs is home to 40 museums, the highest concentration of museums in the country. Basel also has a beautiful Old Town and is situated on both sides of the Rhine River. Sam Keller, director of Fondation Beyeler — and former director of Art Basel Miami Beach — says, “Basel is a cultural, open-minded city, with world-class architecture and a burgeoning arts scene. I’m always discovering something new.”

grand-tour-2This summer at the Fondation Beyeler, the Paul Gauguin exhibition — one of the cultural highlights of the year — brings together about 50 Gauguin masterpieces amassed from leading international museums and private collections. Icons of modern art, they are some of the most significant and valuable art treasures in the world. The exhibit runs through June 28.
Basel is also home to an array of buildings by internationally renowned architects, such as Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, and Tadao Ando. It’s also home base for the architectural practice of Herzog & de Meuron — best known around these parts as the architects of PAMM, the Pérez Art Museum overlooking Biscayne Bay in Miami.

INTERLAKEN: GOURMET CELEBRATION

In 2015, the world-renowned Victoria-Junfrau Grand Hotel and Spa in Interlaken celebrates its 150th anniversary. As part of the celebration, guests can experience the best that 150 years of culinarian art has to offer. The hotel’s restaurant, “La Terasse,” presents new interpretations of classic, almost-forgotten gourmet dishes. Toast to La Terasse’s anniversary with its “150” cocktail. A culinary tour called “Once Upon a Time” takes you to five historic places in the hotel, where you enjoy a specially created five-course dinner, along with entertaining anecdotes.

LUCERNE: CONCERTS AND OPERA HA-HA

Lucerne now has an ultramodern glass and steel music box — the new home of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra — designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. Dubbed the Lucerne Culture and Convention Centre, there is an intriguing interplay between its architecture and nature, with its glass reflecting the nearby Alpine peaks. The orchestra’s Summer Festival is devoted to the theme of “Humor,” exploring various ways in which composers of every era have interpreted it. The moral “Tutto nel mundo è burla” — “All the world’s a joke” — from Verdi’s last opera, Falstaff, expresses the festival theme in a nutshell. The opera will be presented in a concert performance on August 26. The festival runs from August 14 – September 13.

ZERMATT: CLIMBING THE MATTERHORN

Zermatt is celebrating the majestic Matterhorn throughout the year with events and festivities. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Matterhorn’s first ascent by Edward Whymper and his rope team on July 14, 1865, The Matterhorn Story, a theatre play, is being performed at an open-air theatre, the highest venue in Europe. Situated on Riffelberg (2,582 m), it affords an unforgettable view of the magnificent Matterhorn. By integrating three languages — Walliserdeutsch, German, and English — the play will be trilingual. It runs through July and August.

APPENZELL: ST WHISKEY TOUR

grand-tour-3A unique high-altitude whiskey tour crosses the Alpstein. The region is known for rural customs and traditions, such as folk music and rustic dances, as well as hiking tours. Taste exquisite whiskies that have been resting for months in their fine barrels at 27 different mountain inns, surrounded by famous mountain peaks. These unique distillates from Appenzell will be a new taste experience. Enjoy them even more while breathing in the clean mountain air and gazing at breathtaking views.

EMMENTAL: HOLEY CHEESE!

What’s Switzerland without cheese? The little cheese village in Affoltern, in the Emmental AOC in central Switzerland, is a blend of past and present. At the Emmental Show Dairy, make your own Swiss cheese under the guidance of a professional cheesemaker, experiencing both traditional and modern production techniques of the famous cheese. (Emmentaler, the cheese with the holes in it, is the one we know as “Swiss cheese.”) Two restaurants serve delicious regional and seasonal specialties and have garden terraces. There are also traditional Swiss games such as Platzen — the Swiss version of shot put — an outdoor wooden ninepins rink, and stone-throwing. Tours take place all summer.

More info at myswitzerland.com.

— Irene Moore

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