The Retirees go Abroad – Chateau Chillon

This is our last day in our idyll paradise amongst the vines. We re-organise our suitcases and fold the washing. It is pleasant just to be here watching the sun rise behind our rock lifting the shadows off the mountains we view out our window every morning.

For our last day we plan to sail upon the lake, then walk to Chateau Chillon along the foreshore and then walk on to Montreux. There is a Casino in Montreux which also houses the Museum of Queen (the band) memorabilia which sounds very interesting. The day starts off rather cool but promises to become hot with little cloud or breeze and we continued to fuss around until lunch when we reappraised our plans and decided to skip the boat ride. The 72 Swiss francs would be put to better use at the Casino.

We walked down through the vines to the foreshore and commenced toward the Chateau. Kerry noticed some more sky divers above us but one in particular seemed to be well off course and headed for a watery landing in the lake. This must happen regularly as I could see a rescue boat standing by awaiting the arrival of their first customer.

As we walked along we discovered there are beaches along the lake and people swimming and sun baking – should have brought our togs. Kerry tests the water – the verdict warm enough for swimming.

Our first sighting of the Chateau comes as we pass the swimming pool and clear a small headland. The chateau looks out of place with the modern town behind it, the jets in the sky above it, the steam powered ferry on the lake in front of it, the electric train racing between stations behind it and the expressway funnelling traffic between towns above it.

As we make our way toward the Chateau, we see a crested egret with its chicks and partner enjoying life on the lake. The chicks hide from the camera on their mother’s back.

We arrive at the Chateau after about half an hours walk. Our pace had been slow due to all the distractions. We crossed the bridge and dispensed with the audio guide but followed the guide trail. A very helpful posting in English French and German gave details of the points of interest. The first section was the dungeons. They were used to hold prisoners and produce.

After rising from the dungeons we entered the castle keep and the rooms once occupied by the Constable of the Duke of Savoy and the Dukes of Bern. There was a collection of chests in one of the rooms. I had not realised the significance of these chests to people of the 14th to 19th century. They held everything and were knocked about through the travel form one castle to another. Some were pretty raw and crude and others decorated with grand carving. As transportation became better and travel more secure the chest changed from itinerant to a piece of furniture. One of these pieces (counting from the left picture 7) was recently found in the church at Villeneuve and contained the accounts of Chillon from the 15th century. We also found a door with the largest key hole I have ever seen – the size of Kerry’s hand.

The rooms were fitted with furniture from the period of Bernese occupation and early Savoyard occupation so it was utilitarian and functional. It was also very obvious that it was very cold in winter as attested by the large stoves in bedrooms and the fireplaces in all rooms.

The tour through the Chateau twisted and turned upstairs to the top of the tower above the keep and through dining rooms bedrooms bathroom toilets – there was a room for everything.

Once we finished viewing the chateau we continued to walk along the lake toward Montreaux. Moving at a leisurely pace we walked from the Chateau in under 1 hour enjoying some of the prettiest views Switzerland can offer. A panoramic view of the lake back to the Chateau makes the point.

The Retirees go Abroad – All aboard The Chocolate Train

The weather has been kind. Wednesday after an exciting day on the glacier we were treated to a lovely sunset over Lake Geneva. The promise of a fine day for tomorrow.

We enjoy the vineyard and know we will miss this place when it is time to go.

It’s an early start to shower have breakfast and get prepared to be in Montreux by 8.30 am even though Montreux is only 4 minutes by train from Villeneuve. We make the station ahead of time but this allows us to double check that we get the correct train. At Montruex we find the office of Golden Pass and collect our tickets. All aboard. The rain snakes its way out of Montreux giving spectacular views of the town and its lake.

As we travel along the countryside surprises us with its beauty and ruggedness. Photography is difficult because of the reflections in the windows.

Finally we reach Cailler. Cailler is a Swiss chocolate brand. It was founded by François-Louis Cailler in 1819 and bought by Nestlé in 1929 when the company fell on hard times during the Depression. The tour of the factory tells the story of cocoa how it was found by the Aztecs stolen by Cortez and introduced to Spain and then Europe. The Dominican order opposed it as sinful whilst the Franciscans approved of it for consumption even during Lent. By 1819 Louis Cailler had developed the chocolate block we know today and he made a fortune and a factory at Broc (where the tour is conducted) but he never exported. It was Nestle that had the international contacts hence the buyout in 1929. You won’t find Cailler in Australia which is a damned shame as it is beautiful chocolate.

After the history you go to a tasting room where through an audio guide you hear about the Nestle programme for helping indigenous women in Africa become self-sufficient and secure the resource (Coca beans) for Nestle. You hear about the nut growers and the Dairymen who are all part of the Cailler team and you get to taste the nuts and the chocolates – as much as you can eat provided you don’t try to leave with any uneaten.

After the gift shop we needed a cup of coffee/tea to wash away the taste of the chocolate. But the allure of the gift shop was hard to resist so we bought 3 bars of milk chocolate – we are pensioners and have to watch the pennies.

The tour finished and our taste for chocolate slaked we board a bus and travel to the villages of Gruyere. The village is most famous to us as the name of a type of cheese principally associated with fondue dining. But it started as the name of the village that was given to the local cheese. Dominated by its chateau the village is a reminder of the violent times of the past when it was necessary to have a fortified place to live and work. There are many remnants of this history apparent in the village. Apart from the modern entry there are a number of fortified gates around the village and two walls an outer and an inner wall before reaching the chateau.

The village church is remarkably large and well maintained but it also is surrounded by earlier fortifications

There are two museums in the village; a Tibetan museum and the HR Giger Museum. The Giger museum is a strange futuristic fantasy art museum and there is an adjoining café which takes its theme from the movie “Alien”. We had lunch there and even that was alien so far as Kerry was concerned

However the tour allowed us three hours at the village where two was plenty. After the village we returned to the bus and travelled literally down the hill to the cheese factory. Well after the Cailler tour the cheese factory was never in the hunt. We got the story of how cheese was made and stored and its different vintages plus the obligatory samples and gift shop but not as interesting or tasty as Cailler. Perhaps the most interesting was the cheese turning robot that spends its life going up and down the aisles of cheese rounds turning them over at the assigned time.

The tour has ended and it is time to board the train and head back to Montreux. Not a very vigorous day but tiring eating all that chocolate.

The Retirees go Abroad – Bregenz Austria to Villeneuve Switzerland

After leaving Bregenz we anxiously watched “Tommy” to pick up our trail in Switzerland as we had the maps for Switzerland. After some backward and forwards and after buying our Swiss vignette (the road tax sticker) we made it into Switzerland.

It is very much like Austria or Austria is very much like Switzerland I don’t know which. Even down to the onion domes on some of the churches. We decided we would break our trip and call into Lucerne to see a bridge. Kerry had read about ten famous walking bridges in the world to see (and no the Goodwill Bridge was not one of them) and amongst the bridges was Kapellbrucke in Lucerne.

The Kapellbrücke (literally, Chapel Bridge) is a covered wooden footbridge spanning diagonally across the Reuss River. The bridge is unique since it contains a number of interior paintings dating back to the 17th century, although many of them were destroyed along with most of the centuries-old bridge in a 1993 fire. Subsequently restored, the Kapellbrücke is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, as well as the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge.

After a hot beverage in the form of a hot chocolate, we left Lucerne for Lausanne or at least a village outside of Lausanne or so we thought. When we arrived in Villeneuve we were struggling with where the hell was our accommodation. We seemed to be going into the vineyards and then low and behold we ended up at a Cave for Domaine du Scex du Chatelard. Is it possible that we were staying in a vineyard – YES! We were a little early so we went back to the village to poke around.

Christine met us at 3.00pm as arranged and we took possession of the villa – a studio really with a kitchen dining room overlooking our Greek themed patio under the peach tree looking at the vines and a bedroom/lounge room. Both rooms have large windows looking over the village. Then there is the bathroom. Obviously an afterthought, there is part of the rock wall behind the villa extruding into the bathroom. Perfect in every way. We even had our own Grotte. We are staying at Domaine du Scex du Chatelard. Our photos of the vines show what a delightful place it is.

We very quickly noticed that sky diving is an important past time in Villeneuve with multiple sky divers drifting towards earth at different times during the afternoon. They were so frequent we even forgot about them.

We walked down to the village to buy some groceries and found that not much was open. So we ended up at the Hotel du Soleil for dinner. The incumbents are of the oriental persuasion so it was soup and dim sims for dinner. Not much chop for the price.