From Chateau on the Lake to Chateau on the mountain
Our first full day in Switzerland and our hosts have us up and out of the house by 9am to tour the castle on the lake and be back for lunch.
In Patricia’s little Mazda SUV, we wind through the vineyards and villages clinging to the side of the hill overlooking Lake Geneva. Amazing how they use every square foot of land, terracing the rows of vines. Descending to the lake, we find Montreux, home of the famous Montreux Jazz Festival, its own microclimate of palm trees and bougainvillea. Somehow the cold wind misses this little indentation of the lake. The belle epoque architecture is stunning and there is a wonderful walkway along the lake.
But no stopping there. We continue just a couple of kilometers to our destination, the Chateau de Chillon. Built upon a Roman foundation at a narrow part of the road between the cliff and the lake, this castle was the toll collection and defensive point for the powers of the time. We begin the tour in the dungeon, which inspired the poet Lord Byron to pen The Prisoner of Chillon, a story of the Swiss renegade who was held prisoner and tortured there for 5 years. “And mine has been the fate of those/To whom the goodly earth and air/Are bann’d, and barr’d–forbidden fare”. The columns where the prisoners were chained are now decorated with graffiti, Lord Byron’s among them. Upstairs, some of the paintings on the walls (to resemble tapestries) still are visible and the views of the lake and mountains are spectacular.
Back to our host’s for lunch, then Jean-Pierre joins us and we head north to Gruyère, home of the cheese you’ve enjoyed if you’ve ever had fondue. Green rolling hills filled with happy cows are on either side of the road. We watch the cheese being stirred, get some samples, and then go up to the walled hill-town that rests below the castle. We walk the main square, marvel at the architecture with some Russian tourists, and stroll around the castle. We imagine we’re merchants in the Middle Ages trading in the square.
Back to Le Renardier for dinner. Delicious roasted chicken-in-a-bag with braised endives, Jean-Pierre complements the meal with a bottle of local wine from his cave, located downstairs next to the Swiss government mandated concrete room air-raid shelter. Our wonderful hosts are becoming more and more like family.
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