Lake Geneva was one of the places that Mel and Suan visited way back in 2003 when journeying with a tour group. This time however, Mel was driving with two other gentlemen on the way to Vevey to stay for a couple of days.
First, what a drive it was. Imagine if the weather had been kinder. From tunnels we emerged to break off into the small country roads near Chexbres. The lanes are rather small and with the stone hedge on the right, could scratch the car! Worse, it’s suppose to be two-way traffic…
With vineyards on both sides and a beautiful lake in front of us, I sure was glad that it wasn’t me doing the driving this time. Just spend time looking out for the views and clicking my camera! Before soon, we had arrived in Vevey.
Rich people have lived here.
That’s the conclusion that Mel made when walking along the promenade that lines the lake in front of the hotel. Well, the hotel is kind of vintage and luxurious too…
The Grand Hotel Du Lac is a venerable institution that has opened doors since 1868. It was home to poets (one of whom is a Nobel prize laureate) and nobles of all levels during the late 19th century.
Only bankruptcy forced a change in ownership. The tea rooms are so daintily decorated that is almost seemed to be a museum! I must have had what is just a superior room of 19m², and even then had the opportunity to experience the nostalgia of how it would have been a noble gentleman staying here…
You can see from the walkways to the 25 superior rooms, 16 deluxe rooms and 18 junior suites that the decor is classical from the gilded age of European heights of power. I was so privileged to stay here for a grand 3 days.
Vevey, home to Charlie & Lake Leman
More famous for being the corporate headquarters of Nestle, Vevey is one of the many towns and villages that dot lake Geneva. It faces southwards, so the alps are in the distant and includes some big names like Mont Blanc. Thus the shoreline view is simply wonderful to behold. But then before you get here (old town), you drive pass the grimier ‘new’ part of the city with buildings that seem to us an eyesore.
On our first night here we headed to Charly’s, a restaurant set on the shore of lake Geneva. It would be a 10 minute walk from the hotel, through rows of boats parked in a marina, past statues of the many famous folks who lived here in Vevey.
Chief amongst them would be Charlie Chaplin. His statue stands here facing the lake as if guarding the place. People seem to know all about him and his life here though I have to admit that the only thing I know is his silent movies – especially the one where he cooked a pair of boots for dinner (“The Gold Rush”). He lived here for 25 years, after realizing the US will not allow him to return. Certainly one of the greatest talents of his time.
When we first got to Vevey, someone mentioned Lac Leman and I was confused if Vevey was really on a different lake other than Lake Geneva. Now I just realize it is the French name.
As an upside down crescent or some say banana, it is approximately 580km² in this French part of Switzerland ringing the Alps from the north. So as we walked we are facing France and the beginnings of the Alps, with roughly half of the lake owned by either countries. It’s hard to draw a line in the water…
Amongst other things, one is to do is to photograph the large 8m fork built in 1995 in front of the food museum (Alimentarium). In 2009, it was officially “planted” in its location.
The ferry to Chillon
Then it was time to walk to the pier to take the CGN ferries that ply lake Geneva. Located at Vevey Marche, we are on the scenic ride towards Chillon, home to the famous chateau by the lake. Actually we could have taken the same ride from the Vevey-La Tour point. In any case the walk was a nice one as we can now see the old town and the hills that overlooks Vevey. We had driven in yesterday and it was raining. All along the slopes are vineyards. Wish we had been driving and stopping there now!
We are taking the St-Gingolph to Lausanne route, with stops over at Clarens, Montreux, Territet and finally our destination of Chillon. On the boat it takes about an hour due to all these stops, but it also gives us the views. One such view (not in picture) is the hotel management school on top of one of the hills along the way. Said to have many pupils from the south India subcontinent, these hotel management schools help the young scions of ex-noble families in India excel in running their family business back home.
Our main destination is the Chateau Chillon. An “island” castle, it is linked by a bridge to the main land. Used by Romans and later as a prison in the wars of religion, it is now the country’s most visited historic monument. We came somewhere close here in 2003… well, it looked sort of great from the water and from far, but close up it seemed like any other fortress. Except it is by the lake.
And you know what?
The gang decided that it would be far ‘faster’ to walk back to Montreux than to take the train or hail a taxi. Hi Ho Hi Ho, it’s off to Montreux we go…. Had you been with us you would not have regretted this decision. Even as we marched towards dinner, the occasional stealing of a glance at the alps worked wonders.
From the water’s edge, the pictures look nice, but not as much as if you were here. The municipality did a wonderful job of placing planters along the banks of the lake, which gave the route an air of a artsy nature walk.
Montreux, Fred Mercury’s abode
And we’re spent! We had walked for about 3km from Chillon towards Montreux, enjoying the views along the way. Finally after 30 minutes we got here. Dinner was to be at a local Italian restaurant with large servings. So much that mixed in the alcohol you can barely walk. Not because we just did but the meals was really heavy.
Just like Vevey, Montreux has its fair share of celebrity inhabitants. Freddie Mercury lived and recorded his last album here too! Actually before dinner we had a little frolick around the statue commemorating him. In the world championship of posing like Fred, I think we know who won…
Like many current celebrities after him, Fred Mercury fell in love with the tranquility of the town when he came in 1978. Settling here from thereon and not leaving, even composing his last album here. Since 1996 this bronze statue has been here.
Back to our motley crew. Now we had decided not to have dessert. Figuring that we need to work off dinner, we made the 6km walk back to Vevey (our hotel) over 1½ hours. It was definitely dusk as we get in.
If you do want to do it our way, better make sure you brought along good walking shoes. Mel’s lakeside adventure is mapped out here: