We spent one day on an excursion called the Chocolate Train. It included a train ride at sitting at the front of the train, getting the front-row view the conductor normally sees, a visit to a Gruyere cheese factory, and a Cailler chocolate factory. Click the photo below for the full album.
After another typical but delicious Swiss breakfast, Lauren and Raul departed for the Montreux train station in order to board the Chocolate Train. On this special train, there were classic, “Belle Epoque” cars as well as a panoramic wagon. This train also had so-called “V.I.P.” seats which allow the passengers to have an unobstructed view in front of the train. Imagine their surprise when they realized that their seat reservation placed them in the very front V.I.P. row. It isn’t a Golden Ticket, but it was still pretty exciting.
They arrived in Montreux with ample time to board the Chocolate Train, but some cranky old Germans were there well in advance and seated in Raul and Lauren’s reserved seats. While they spent several uncomfortable minutes deliberating whether to just sit somewhere else or attempt to claim their rightful seats, the train filled up, and it became clear that sitting anywhere else would result in taking someone else’s reserved seat. Raul failed to establish communication with the usurpers. He showed them his ticket, but they seemed clueless, so in the end, it was necessary to pass the resolution of this dilemma on to the train attendant who efficiently evacuated Raul and Lauren’s seats. The Germans seemed to be a large party, surrounding Raul and Lauren in the rest of the V.I.P. seats. At various times, they had some animated discussions and some of them seemed upset. What were they upset about? Who can say for sure? But Lauren still felt a twinge of guilt over the affair.
The first stop of the excursion was La Maison du Gruyère, a cheese factory. All the train passengers were corraled through the tour as though they were cows, listening to an audioguide narrated by a “cow” named Cherry, because she was born in the cherry season, not because of her colors. Having heard the basics of large-scale Gruyère production, they were bussed to the town of Gruyères for lunch.
Gruyères is a very cute town, although there were too many tourists. Raul and Lauren briefly visited the Gruyères Château and returned to the main street for lunch. Dessert was a delicious bowl of raspberries with cream. The cream was of an unusual consistency and extremely tasty.
After lunch, they explored the back lanes of the town and ended up pretty much alone on a beautiful hiking trail. They walked along it for a bit, enjoying the sounds of the grazing sheep and cows from the nearby hills.
The next stop was the Maison Cailler, a chocolate factory. Once more, they were corraled and divided into smaller groups for an entertaining English tour of the history of chocolate. After the tour, Raul and Lauren were able to observe the production line of a nut-coated praline and more general information about chocolate and how it is produced. The culmination of the visit was, of course, the tasting room. Lauren did not believe it possible that too many samples could be provided, but Cailler accepted her challenge and won. Raul’s limit was not reached.
On the way back to Montreux, Raul attempted to barter their V.I.P. seats for seats in the 1920s coaches, but nobody accepted the exchange, for some strange reason. Perhaps word of the cranky Germans had spread. Nevertheless, after a stop where some people disembarked, Raul and Lauren found a couple of empty seats in the other coaches and enjoyed a most comfortable ride back to Montreux. The adventurers really had the best of both worlds on this train.
Finally back in Lausanne, the Taranusauruses worked up an appetite by strolling along Lake Geneva and in the Olympic Park. A dinner of rösti (topped with Gruyère cheese, of course) and, for Raul, melted cheese on toast, was followed by a game of giant chess. The game was played in front of the lake using two-foot tall pieces and a board on the sidewalk. Raul won.
|Day 16||Thursday 31 May||Lausanne|
Depart Lausanne platform 6 on IR 1717
Board Chocolate Train, S₣59, departs 09:12
|10:15||La Maison du Gruyère|
|11:15||Bus to Gruyères village|
|13:50||Bus to Broc|
|18:00||Lakeside promenade in Montreux, return to Lausanne for the night|
Raul and Lauren rushed through breakfast in order to take an early train to Montreux. This lake-side town is in the western, French-speaking canton of Vaud. The travellers left their bags at the pricey nine Franc locker and took the next bus to the wonderfully preserved Château de Chillon.
Some readers will remember that Raul and Lauren visited several châteaus in their 2007 trip to France. The Swiss château differs in that construction of the buildings began much earlier, before the 11th or 12th centuries. It also consists of numerous distinct buildings constructed over several centuries. Furthermore, this castle functioned primarily as an administrative and defensive fortification, not as a permanent residence. The château is built on a rocky island just a few meters off the coast of Lake Geneva, so it occupies an excellent defensive position. Raul and Lauren’s tour of the castle finished with a walk along the sentry wall and a climb to the top of the castle’s keep.
They strolled back to Montreux along a lovely lake-side path, posed with a statue of Freddie Mercury, and caught a train to their final destination for the day, Lausanne.
After checking in at Hotel du Marché, they visited the Collection del’Art Brut, a museum featuring the works of untrained artists. Many of these artists were locked up, either because society viewed them as insane or because they were criminals. Others were seen as “normal,” but they led mundane lives as soldiers, policemen, and laborers before tapping into their creative spirit. The works were as varied as they were creative, and one never knew what to expect next.
Raul and Lauren then enjoyed a light dinner at Café Romand. Lauren had a warm goat cheese salad, the likes of which they had not tasted since their last trip to France.
After dinner, they explored the old town. They noted the differences in architecture as well as the diverse ethnic make-up of the population. Also, this was the first Swiss city where litter and refuse were commonly seen on the streets and sidewalks.
Now that Raul and Lauren are in the French-speaking part of the country, they are somewhat more efficient at communicating with the locals due to their combined knowledge of French. The travellers have found that throughout Switzerland and Austria, when they speak to someone using the local greeting, the local always replies in German, Italian, or French. This is in stark contrast to their experience in Spain and especially France, where a “Bonjour!”, more often than not, resulted in a reply in English. In Zermatt last night, Raul greeted the restaurant owner in German. She replied with a flurry of incomprehensible words to which Raul replied, “Ich verstehe nicht,” (“I don’t understand”). Her first assumption was that he spoke Hochdeutsch, the “High” German spoken in Germany and asked, “Verstehen sie Hochdeutsch?” It seems laughable to Raul and Lauren that someone would think them capable or fluent in German, high or otherwise.
|Day 15||Wednesday 30 May||Lausanne|
Depart Lausanne platform 3 on S1 12119, direction: Villeneuve, 1/hr
|08:35||Arrive Veytaux-Chillon, walk 10 minutes to ▲▲▲Château de Chillon|
▲▲▲Château de Chillon, closes at 19:00
|13:00||Return to Lausanne|
▲City History Museum (Musée Historique de Lausanne), closes at 17:00
▲▲Collection de l’Art Brut, closes at 18:00
|17:30||Go to Ouchy and the waterfront|
Breakfast at the Youth Hostel surpassed the low expectations set by the previous day’s unappetizing dinner. Descending into town, Raul procured nourishment from the budget-friendly grocery store, Coop, while Lauren set forth to purchase their train tickets to Gornergrat.
From the 10,270 ft viewpoint, they enjoyed a sweeping Alpine panorama, including the Matterhorn, a half-dozen glaciers, and many more peaks as high or higher than they were. It was immediately apparent that the air was much thinner at this altitude, so they took things slowly. Also immediately apparent as they stepped off the train were two giant dogs. They were St. Bernards complete with brandy barrels around their necks. Raul did not ask if he could have a taste. Evidently Lauren had no idea what the barrels were for and did not believe Raul’s precise explanation.
Before oxygen deprivation could take its toll, they boarded a train bound for Zermatt and got off at the penultimate stop. From here, Raul and Lauren hiked a couple hours downhill into town.
Back at the hostel, a break was in order, after which they explored three of Zermatt’s grocery stores. They still haven’t found a good selection of bar soap. It seems likely that the Swiss prefer liquid soap. Similar to Pontresina, a number of Zermatt’s restaurants are closed until June, including two recommended by their guidebook. They walked along the main drag and dined on fondue at a quieter establishment just off the road.
In contrast to the planned itinerary below, Raul and Lauren are leaving for Lausanne in the morning.
|Day 14||Tuesday 29 May||Lausanne|
Hiking routes PDF map
Underground funicular from Zermatt to Sunnegga, S₣12 round-trip, every 10-20 minutes
|08:38||Hike to Blauherd and back, eat along the way if possible|
|12:30||Descend from Sunnegga to Zermatt|
Train to Gornergrat, S₣20, sit on the right side, every hour
Depart Gornergrat to Rotenboden, ~S₣4,50
|15:36||Hike to Riffelberg|
Depart Riffleberg to Zermatt, S₣14,50
Depart Zermatt platform 3 on R 264 to Visp
Total duration: 3h 02m
|19:23||Arrive Visp, transfer to platform 4/5 on IR 1438|
Check in at Lausanne Guesthouse, S₣106/night double, or S₣76,80/night dorm (3 nights), no breakfast, free Wi-Fi
Tel: +41 021-601-8000