Friday August 7th
The following day, we decided to check out the East end of Lake Leman by way of our rental car. Our destination was the quaint little town of Vevey, roughly an hours drive away from Daina’s Nyon apartment.
The ride was incredibly scenic though the pictures I attempted to take were all skewed by the reflections made by the car window. Even still, I can remember us winding our way through the mountainous Switzerland freeway high above the lake elevation taking in the gorgeous views. At certain points throughout the drive, the freeway would direct us right through the terrain by way of a tunnel.
Apparently, the Swiss also care deeply for their countryside and choose to tunnel straight through the mountains in an effort to retain the natural landscape instead of knocking down the sides just to save some money on the infrastructure. In my personal opinion: money well-spent. There is something deeply appealing in a place that seeks to keep the original beauty and character of the land. In doing so, the identity and fingerprint are unaltered creating an inherently better experience and more complex connection to nature.
Upon arrival to Vevey, we promptly found a short term parking lot and began our journey to find a nice place to eat some lunch. The difficulty with this endeavor was soon brought to my attention as many of the local eateries serve much of the same food. I don’t necessarily think you can wrong in whichever you choose, though not having a cell phone with service to check reviews makes the decision that much more luck-based. In the end, we chose how most tourists probably would: we looked for the busiest restaurant with the highest concentration of locals and found a seat.
We ordered a traditional European-style lager as well as some plates for us to share. The special lunch offering of the day included a creamy chanterelle soup and a pan-fried white fish with a beautiful citrus reduction served with boiled fingerling potatoes. We also chose local perch filets with pommes frites and ordered a traditional “rosti” — what I am calling a Swiss version of hash browns — topped with chanterelles to get the full experience. Needless to say, we did not leave hungry!
Following lunch, we walked around town, taking in the local sights and sounds, then headed down to the water to check out the views.
To finish off the afternoon, we grabbed a gelato and hopped in the car before our 2 hour parking meter expired. It was a very warm day and we decided we should go back to the apartment to check in on baby Maya and her mother Daina. A short nap, a few beers and some grilled food at the homestead and the family was ready for bedtime.
Saturday, August 8th
We took our time getting out of bed and eventually decided to make breakfast which consisted of some nice baguettes, a selection of salamis and cured hams and some fried eggs. The morning was rather uneventful as we were saving our energy for the evening which entailed us taking a train to Geneva to explore and take part in the Fetes de Geneve (Geneva Festival).
From the train station, Lisa and I broke off from her parents to walk around and see a few places that I had not been to, as this was my first trip to Switzerland. I had requested to see the Patek Philippe Museum and that was the first place we visited. This was a very neat place that detailed the famous watch company from its inception back in 1839 all the way up to the present. There were thousands of timepieces on display and based on current pricing, there had to be at least a billion dollars worth of inventory on hand. Pretty incredible!!
From the museum, we simply strolled around the city sidewalks while taking a few selfies along the way. We eventually made our way to a small bar outside of the meeting place we had made with Lisa’s parents before our separation. We relaxed, had some peanuts and a beer and waited for her parents so we could go across the street to eat some dinner at Ingelwood, a fantastic place known for their mouthwatering burgers.
Despite the long wait for our meal since the place was packed, it was the hands down best burger I have ever had. Ridiculously flavorful beef with local Gruyere melted on top, paired with what seemed to be an artisan-style apple wood smoked bacon and a perfectly fried egg sandwiched between a light and airy poppy seed bun. They only cook their burgers to a medium-rare unless otherwise instructed. I know this would scare a whole lot of people but let me tell you, the beef was so fresh and of such high quality, I would not have it cooked any other way. It was a truly euphoric experience that I will never forget.
To add to the already memorable evening, we made our way to the lakeside to witness one of the most spectacular fireworks show in the world. The show lasted over an hour and a half and consisted of perfectly timed explosions of color to coincide with the dramatic music (i.e. iconic Harry Potter compilations from the movies, and many other well-known songs and orchestrations) that played clearly in the background. Although I was able to get some reasonably good photos, the experience was far greater than the pictures alone. It was no wonder the streets surrounding the area were literally flooded with people standing shoulder to shoulder to catch a glimpse of the show. I was unable to secure any hard figures on attendance but I would have to wager a guess in the neighborhood of 50,000 or more.
Once the show was over, we made our way through the masses back towards the train station to eventually end up at the apartment for a good night’s sleep.
Monday, August 10th
We took a break from any sightseeing on Sunday to rest up for the busy week ahead. Monday came around quickly and Lisa and I decided to take a ferry across the lake to visit Yvoire, France.
After nearly missing the 12:30 boat, we enjoyed a rather speedy ferry ride across the lake and arrived in Yvoire. The sun was shining with few clouds in the sky which made for some great pictures in a tiny, but lovely town. We walked around a bit and found a great little gem to eat at where we sampled some great fish from around the area and a delicious risotto as well.
As Yvoirre is so small, we ended up navigating the entire town in around 30 minutes (this does not include the time it took to eat lunch) even with a few stops in some local antique shops. Deciding there wasn’t much else to do or see, we caught the next ferry back to Nyon for a quiet rest of the afternoon.
Tuesday, August 11th
We had made the decision Tuesday morning that we would visit the Nestle-Cailler Chocolate Factory in the Broc/Gruyere region. It was quite the drive there as the iconic back roads of Switzerland are no more than a car-widths wide. This makes 2-way traffic a bit of an adventure as one must yield and pull as far over as possible while the other swerves off-road. To add to the difficulty, many of these roads are as winding a passageway that I can remember traveling on, which at times makes spotting the on-coming car rather last second. It all adds to the excitement, I guess!
We arrived in one piece and were directed to park in a grass lot about a quarter of a mile from the actual factory. We bought a pre-made sandwich and crepe from their on-site store and waited for our tour to begin.
Once “inside the ropes” we got an idea of the history of the company as well as some fun facts and history about chocolate including its roots dating back to the Mayan civilization. We then got to see the inner workings of the factory and learned some basic details about how they make chocolate at Nestle-Cailler (no secrets revealed…darn!).
The tour wouldn’t have been complete without a tasting area where we could sample several of Cailler’s different brands of chocolate from hazelnut-infused chocolate to espresso and dark chocolate combinations and everything in between. Regardless of one’s affinity for chocolate, there was something there to please even the toughest of critics.
Lisa and I finished the tour by taking a silly tourist photo in the provided booth and continued to the Cailler store where we would of course have to buy some of our favorites to take back with us.
We bought a few things and headed back towards the apartment. On the way, we stopped at an artisanal cheese shop to grab some gruyere to sample back at the homestead. Luckily for us, Lisa had remembered a good amount of French from her high school days to help us in understanding and communicating to the nice lady behind the counter.
We got home and quickly relaxed until it was time to make dinner. We called it an early evening in preparation for our trip to Paris, which would start very early the next morning.
To be continued…(including Paris and the final days back in Switzerland before our return home)
Thanks for catching up and I will be much quicker to post here as I still have so much to fill everyone in on!!