Monday, July 27, 2015

Weekend on Lake Geneva: Part One

Before we came to Switzerland I made a list of all the places I was hoping to visit on our trip this year. Some of them we probably won't get to see. For instance, the Siebenbrunne waterfall - even if Andrew's knee wasn't giving him all kinds of problems, Dad wouldn't let us do the hike because of the danger of the lake overflowing and flooding the hiking trails. There are a whole lot of new places that I've never been and had written down that we just don't have time for.

But I knew I really wanted to take Andrew and the kids to Chateau Chillon. Rob (my brother) and I were there with Grossmeuti in university and it stood out as one of the highlights of all my trips ever. When I told dad that we wanted to go there, he suggested we look for a hotel and stay overnight so we could see Gruyere as well. I looked in the small villages on the lake and our plan was made.

Friday morning dawned bright and beautiful. This is the view from the front door of the apartment we're staying in.

Then I went upstairs and took this picture from Anny's balcony.

They live in a nice place!

Dad wanted to catch the early train so that he could ask some questions at the train station in Zweisimmen. That gave us an hour to kill there before our train (we booked seats on the Goldenpass train so that we'd be guaranteed to have five seats together). We decided to visit one of our favorite stores. Unfortunately, we never made it out of the toy cellar (they have an amazing art supply and stationary section upstairs, as well as calendars, books, postcards and general kitsch).

Finally it was time for our train. Here it is:

And here's a shot of our car.

While we were wandering around looking at the train, I saw this train waiting on a side track. Seriously, everything is beautiful here.

As far as train cars go, this one was very nice. I've taken a few pictures over the last few days, and you'll see how much they can vary.

This ride takes you from Zweisimmen to Montreux, I think it's about two and a half hours. The landscape varies a great deal as you go. I think Andrew got some pictures on his phone, so I'll post those later. In the meantime, here are some people pictures from the ride.

They offer food service on this train, so dad had a coffee and a gipfel (croissant). Apparently it was very good :)

We also passed through many tunnels. Switzerland is famous for their crazy tunnels. All the ones we used were quite short, and this one had windows at the beginning and end. It reminded me a little of the Othello Tunnels.

Once we arrived in Montreux, Dad had this idea that he wanted to take us on a cruise of the lake. He had discovered it two years ago, and been dreaming about it ever since. You walk down about a million stairs from the train station and along the lake front until you reach the boat launch.

And then we were on a large paddle wheeler that goes from village to village along the lake. It was free to ride the boat with our rail passes (if you're ever in Switzerland, I HIGHLY recommend the Swiss Rail Pass. Not only can you travel on the swiss transit system - train, bus, boat...- but you get free entrance into the Swiss Museums and many other discounts and perks. Plus you don't have to fuss with tickets and transfers.) Turns out dad hadn't just been dreaming about the view and the boat ride, he was excited about the meal on board the boat too.

I settled on the main lunch package, while Andrew and Dad had some kind of pork dish. Both meals were three courses. Andrew and Dad got a delicious looking salad while I got cold tomato soup with basil and cream and some kind of fish (maybe tuna) in the small glass jar. It was incredibly, unbelievably hot and humid that day and the cold soup (is it gazpacho if it's cold tomato soup?) was so refreshing.

Then, in between courses, dad and I were awfully rude and ran outside to take a selfie on the deck of the boat.

We came back in and were served our main courses. This is Dad/Andrew's dish. I believe that was polenta, seasonal vegetables and then of course the pork.

I had an egg and vegetable side dish, seasonal vegetables and fish. It was a little scary looking given I'm mostly a tuna/salmon eater but fresh from Lake Geneva so I knew I needed to experiment!

And it turned out the fish was my favorite part. It was so flavourful, and I don't mean fishy. Cooked to perfection. The whipped yams or carrots or whatever the orange stuff is was delicious too. I didn't love the egg side dish, but it was okay too.

And then we had dessert. Dad and Andrew had this chocolate and hazelnut mousse.

While I had fresh berries with mint and pistachios. Again, so refreshing and quite light after the huge meal.

Then it was time to move outside and enjoy the sights from the boat.

The water was very still, and there really wasn't a lot of wind even though we were on such a big lake.

Once we made it back to land, we thought about going up the mountain to the Rochers de Naye, but finally decided against it since we would have to pay to do that. Instead we hopped on the trains and headed to our village for the weekend: Chexbres. Here is our station.

From there we walked up, up, up through the most charming houses until we reached our hotel.

There was a big wedding happening at our hotel that weekend, so they put us in the fifth floor (in the attic). Which was warm, but beautiful, and just look at our view!

Apparently this beautiful building used to be a prison.

We all cleaned up and then it was time to find some dinner. I had looked on Yelp and found two possibilities. Unfortunately all options meant walking back down the hill towards the station, but at least we were working off all that good food!

One of our neighbors.

I mentioned the heat - there were lizards all over the place that first night. My kids had never seen one outside of a zoo before so that was a cool experience!

Everything was just so beautiful, though very different from the Berner Oberland. Even though this was the French Region, it felt like we were on the riviera somewhere.

Of course there are cats everywhere. Here's one little fellow we passed a few times.

We settled on an Italian restaurant for dinner mostly because we all wanted to sit on the outside patio. David was SO READY to eat.

And everyone on the patios smokes. That was hard to get used to after our lovely smoke free restaurants. David hated it more than anyone, so I'm not sure why he was 'smoking' his breadsticks.

Finally, our food came. Pizza for everyone! It was delicious. And despite asking if we should share or if these were personal pizzas, they were massive. Next time, consider sharing :)

Or not. It was really good.

The view from our hotel room again. It was spectacular. And the coolest part of the room was hanging out our window.

In our room, the kids sofa bed.

That night we watched a storm roll across the water from the Montreux end towards us. It was amazing to watch the black clouds descend and clover the mountains across the lake - like a sheet of darkness engulfing everything in it's path. Meanwhile, the skies to the right of us were still crystal blue. There were sheets of lightning and horrifically loud thunder claps. It rolled past us towards Lausanne. And then it just stuck. It was exciting at first, watching the lightning and instantly hearing the thunder reply. But then it stayed. And stayed. And we couldn't have the windows open for fresh air because the lightning was literally right above us (and fifth floor, remember?) but it was SO HOT (and loud). I think we all wanted to die. Finally sometime around 3 or 4 am the storm passed. And the good news was, it took the worst of the heat with it. So in the end it was worth it.