Tour de force
From museums to mountains and more, Kōmon ensures each of its Swiss tours is as individual as the guest
Few things are as precious as memories, which is why Paris-born Cécile Aguillaume, who has both French and Swiss citizenship, created a business to help visitors to Switzerland return home with memories to last a lifetime.
A historian, Cécile trained as a tour guide and founded her company, Kōmon, named after the Japanese word for a canal or river lock, and which she felt reflected her fascination for the history of technology and passion for travel. She now takes visitors on bespoke private tours that are tailored to their personal interests.
“My idea is to adapt to each visitor, to really get a sense of what they want,” explains Cécile. “After all, there’s no point in visiting three churches in a row if you are not interested in ecclesiastical architecture. This approach ensures everyone has a much better experience. So, in Lucerne we have the Kapellbrücke, a famous wooden bridge, and I have taken lots of people on tours there, but it’s never the same tour. One time, a little girl on the tour wanted to go to a toy store, so I made sure we ended the tour outside one. I want everyone to go home happy.”
Cécile has built Kōmon’s reputation by word of mouth, impressing visitors with her knowledge and passion for Swiss history and culture, as well as her love of people and stories. Before founding her company, she was a historian at one of the country’s most prestigious watchmakers, but now she delights in sharing her interest in Switzerland’s wider history, as well as offering the sorts of tips about restaurants, bars and cafés that only insiders know.
Through extensive contacts in the tourism, heritage and arts industry, she can also obtain unique access to Swiss institutions, which she presents in new and exciting ways, perfectly suited to the individual interests of each visitor, company or institution.
“Switzerland is in the middle of Europe geographically, but also historically,” she says. “We have more than 1,000 museums, you can see lots of shows, and we have excellent restaurants, so we have a very rich culture. Of course, we also have amazing nature with our lakes and mountains. It is a year-round destination, where you can combine time in both the country and the city.”
With such a deep knowledge and love of her home country, Cécile can make a wide range of recommendations, whether it is the lake, city and mountains of Neuchâtel; the vineyards of Lavaux (she is a certified UNESCO World Heritage Lavaux guide); steamboats on Swiss lakes; tours of Bern, Geneva and Zürich; or heading off the beaten track.
On one occasion, Cécile sent visitors to a traditional Swiss cow fight (combats de reines) in the canton of Valais. These curious cow-on-cow spectacles can draw crowds of up to 50,000, but it is rare for anyone from outside the area to attend. “They were delighted,” recalls Cécile, “and said they were the only people there who weren’t locals. They had great fun, even though they had no idea what was going on, and, most importantly, ‘their’ cow won.”
Cécile also provides a virtual, but no less personal service. “It’s a concierge service, where I can be your correspondent and advise you what to do each day, depending on the weather,” she says. “I don’t come with you, but will communicate via phone or email. However you prefer to be guided, I want to ensure you have the best experience possible.”