Sunday, September 4, 2016

Switzerland Diaries - Day 1 : Montreux

As soon as the train leaves the Geneva station, the calm and tranquil blue water of the Lake Geneva peeks through the train window. The train pretty much goes on the periphery of the lake via Lausanne. Throughout the one hour odd journey time, you can see the glimpses of the fresh blue water of lake Geneva either right besides the rail tracks or sometimes far away hidden in the trees and pretty houses of the towns and villages passing by, but you hardly lose sight of the lake. This is when you start the realise the sheer magnanimity of the lake.There is no surprise that this is the largest water body in Switzerland.

We were quite settled in our seat, but the train slid into the Montreux station and we got down. Our Bed&Breakfast was further inside the town near Montreux Les Plances. Upon enquiring on how to get there we realised two things - firstly, we had to go to platform number 8 and secondly it needs to be pronounced in a more sophisticated manner, something like 'la pla' and not 'les plances' as we were calling it.. Anyways, the train was a very pretty looking train and almost had a vintage look and feel with it. On the adjacent platform was standing the panoramic view train of the Golden Pass which was even more amazing but the husband told me that I had to wait till tomorrow to board that so I made peace with our train.

The train was heading to 'Rocher-de-naye' but we just had one stop and the B&B was located in no time which is quite an amazing fact as the husband refuses to use Google maps and insists on following the paper map and the road signs. Upon reaching the main door, we were a bit confused as we couldn't find the door bell nor was there any sign of the owner. Then we realised that there was a letter left in the name of the husband detailing the code to open the door and other instructions on how to reach the owner should we need any kind of assistance. I wonder if I could ever gather so much faith that I leave my house keys on the door for a stranger and the answer was outright no, so I didn't give it any further thought.

We didn't waste time settling down mostly because we were starving. We went to train station and the same train (which had headed to Rocher-de-Naye) was now heading back to Montreux . The first thing on our agenda was to walk along the lake promenade to 'Chateau de chillon' but first we sat down at a lakeside cafe at stuffed ourselves with the only vegetarian panini available there.

The lakeside promenade is one of the most beautiful walking paths I've seen. We decided to walk all along the path, from the visitor centre to Chateau de Chillon which is about an hour walk and has wonderful photo opportunities. The combination of the very well maintained paths, very immaculate gardens, Lake Geneva with some of the Swiss Alps as a background, is very stunning.  This lovely paved walk along the banks of Lake Geneva is lined with flower beds on one side and grand old hotels and restaurants and a mall on the other. The colour combinations, as well as the combination of flowers and leaves is really well done. Any keen gardener or botanist would enjoy stopping and looking at the variety, and all others like me would just embrace the vibrant colours. The water is mesmerisingly blue. The lake is so huge that it looks like a sea, and one can see only water up till the horizon. There were some people swimming and splashing water in the lake. The flowers, the sculptures along the way, small plazas to take a little rest, coffee or ice cream carts and benches to sit down and enjoy the views, all of this helps pace your energy. The Chateau de Chillon starts popping up in the background half way in the walk but it took us about an hour to actually reach the castle.

After spending sometime at the castle, we decided to take the train back but we were not sure of the train frequency so we hit the road instead in hope of finding a bus stop to take us to the main town back. As we were on the road, we could hear the train whistle so we ran down towards the station by the stairs as fast as we could, but the train moved on. The next train was only an hour later so we climbed back up and continued our journey on the road. We then took the bus 201 which has a good frequency (every 10-15 minutes). Husband and I were a bit confused with the zones and stops due to our lack of homework & specially because the ticket machine wasn't taking credit cards or notes but only coins. Looking at our confused faces, a kind old local got up and explained us in broken english. Upon finding out that we were some coins short, he put his hands in his pockets and handed us some coins. We were overwhelmed by his kindness but obviously we could not accept this so we asked the bus driver if he had any change. He told us that easiest way was that we get down, buy the ticket from the bus stop machine which accepted cards and then take the next bus. In all this confusion, we were almost at the main town, so we just decided to walk the rest of the path. We were exhausted and dehydrated due to an early start, long walk and a very sunny day so we sat down and had a icecream before making our way back to the hotel.

If you are a Freddie Mercury fan , Montreux gives you an opportunity to visit the Queen's museum and experience how the band made its music. There is also a cruise on Lake Geneva that one can do on the lake but we decided to skip it. If you have some spare time, you can also take the cog railway up to Rocher-de-naye to get some stunning views of Lake Geneva. 

The husband was keen to try some local food. Now usually, I am pretty sceptical of such ideas because usually we end up in restaurants that only manage to serve me some soup or salad in vegetarian options. But this time husband suggested we try 'Cheese fondue' so I gladly obliged. Whether or not you are in as much love with cheese as I am, you cannot leave Switzerland without dipping into a fondue. A pot of gooey melted cheese is placed in centre over a slow burn while the diners dip in cubes of bread using a two-pronged fondue forks. Traditionally the Swiss eat it only in winter, but visitors are forgiven to eat it whenever they want.  The cheese melt could be a mix of variety of cheeses - the one we took was Gruyere and a normal cheese. The husband and I were stuffed after the fondue but who doesn't have some space for a dessert.

After thanking the restaurant owner for a wonderful dinner, we made our way back to the B&B. Tomorrow was going to be a DDLJ day, so I had to get some good sleep ...

At the lake, before starting the walk

Freddie Mercury Memorial

 Its a sunny day, jackets are off

Enjoying the view 

The castle pops in the background at a distance

Flowers along the promenade

 Figurines along the walk 

 Almost there

 Chateau de Chillon

Cheese Fondue



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