When I looked up the weather forecast on the internet (www.wunderground.com) it said that the temperature in Lausanne had been in the 60’s. Nice, partly sunny, partly cloudy, Spring temps. And it was fairly nice the day we got there. However, there is a weather phenomenon in that part of the country that they call Les Saintes de Glaces (the Ice Saints), where, after warm and sunny days in late April, on or around the days of Saint Mamert, Saint Pancrace, and Saint Servais (May 11, 12, and 13), wintry, icy weather will make its last stand. Les Saintes have hit us hard this weekend, and I’ve worn the same two long-sleeved shirts and the same pair of jeans (and long underwear to Zermatt) for the last 4 days. Good thing I brought gloves and a snow hat.
Today we head down the hill to Lausanne with Jean-Pierre for a tour of his beautiful city. We visit the largest cathedral in Switzerland, the square where Jean-Pierre, as a boy, touched Winston Churchill’s arm as the statesman was walking back to his car, and the walkable downtown pedestrian shopping area. I see Mephisto shoes on sale, but don’t have time to stop. We stop by the hearing store (L’Audition – have you ever noticed that the word “audition” comes from auditory – to hear?) where Jean-Pierre gets his hearing aid with the 27 different microphones in it fixed. That thing works like a dream.
Back up the hill and after another delicious lunch served by Patricia, only the girls pile in the car to see the Jura, the older, lower (Jura comes from Jurassic) mountains on the French border. Rolling hills instead of jagged peaks, it reminds us of the Blue Ridge, just a little higher. However, the Blue Ridge does not have 1000 year old abbeys nestled in the valley with hidden upstairs chapels to keep the tithe-tax grain and other goods from unwanted visitors.
We head to the top of the hill in the cloud, looking for the little farmhouse restaurant that will serve us tea (it is 4 o’clock, after all), but they are closed and remodeling. We marvel that they work in the sleet, making boards from whole logs right on the spot.
You know, when I travel with Susie we lean more toward the pursuit of nature. At home, she knows all the trees, flowers, bushes, and birds. When we travel, we are always on the lookout for the local flora and fauna. It’s my job to find the nature zone, then I just follow behind Susie with my camera, snapping photos of leaves, flowers, and moss. I have enough photos now from around the world to choose some of the most striking, print and frame them, and put them up on the wall, one of these days.
Our Swiss hostess stops to see the Alpine wildflowers. We are unbelievably lucky to have such a well-versed nature guide. Her father was a botanist, so she can tell us the common, as well as Latin, names for each little dot of color. We leap out of the car with excitement (well, two out of three of us) in the sleeting cold without our gloves to document flowers tinier than my little fingernail.
Down the hill, past the lake, we stop at the Jurapark, home to wild Polish horses, bears, bison, and wolves, and Ovaltine. Actually, here it’s call Ovalmaltine, and is quite the popular drink, maybe more so than hot chocolate. Not too malty, either; it hits the spot. On the way home, Patricia regales us with stories of her fox- and stag-hunting days in England. Jolly good fun.
Back at Le Renardier, it’s Raclette for dinner. A special grill is heated up. Each person gets a 3-in square Teflon tray and scraper. Special cheese is cut up to fit the trays. The trays are inserted under the grill and rest there until the cheese bubbles. While you are waiting, you smash up a small boiled potato and collect some dried meat, pickles, onions, and tomato. The melted cheese is then scraped onto the potato and garnished with some or all the collected foods. Yum. No water is served with this dinner, only the local white wine, Fendant, and lots of it. Fresh rhubarb tart (I must find the rectangular sheets of premade dough rolled up between sheets of paper that can be patchworked into a pie pan) and tea finish the evening. Christine, one of Jean-Pierre’s students (he’s a French tutor on the side) joins us for dinner and we hear stories of her father the veterinarian and how Patricia served as assistant to him during their visit to Germany last year.
We have officially decided to adopt Jean-Pierre and Patricia as our Swiss parents. We hug our Swiss mama and Swiss papa goodnight before the BBC news broadcast. Seems like the Iceland volcano is acting up again and they’re concerned for their flight from Geneva on Saturday.