Sunday, January 29, 2017

Switzerland Reunion May 25 - 28th

From Lyon, France arriving at my destination was in itself a miracle. I was worried I wasn't on the right train, or wouldn't be able to tell what the right stop was, but I did arrive in Lausanne, Switzerland to be greeted by my old friend Claude and it was a wonderful reunion. He picked me up and we went for pizza and red wine and talked and talked. Then down to the lake in the light mist to see the harbor and boats. So glad to be here.

Claude is a member of the Pirates of D'Ouchy brotherhood.  An interesting history of the society and the ship.

Solar powered

Claude had planned many activities and old friends to visit so I didn't have to think about anything.  I welcomed this.

A highlight was the majestic sunset cruise on Lake Leman, aboard a sailing barge built in 1932.  Claude crews on this ship as part of his brotherhood.  He provided us (Jean Luc, Christiane, Jacques and me) a memorable and unique evening on the water with wine and dinner. 

Getting ready to sail off

A peaceful evening on Lake Leman

 Left to right:  Claude, Jean Luc, Christiane and 
Jacques, all friends from the past.

Pulling into the harbor, all good things must end.

Christiane, Jacques and Claude took me on a scenic drive to take an underground tour of the Salt Mines of Bex.  The mine opened in 1684 and is still in operation today.  We took an underground train and also walked around in the tunnels. 

You can see the salt leached out.

We are way underground.

Very narrow train into the mine.

They drill and pull out salt pillars

Mining drill

Salt stalactites

Big tech drill

Drilling back in the olden days

Some of the first lighting used in the mine.

Must have been pretty dim down there.

Some lighting advances through the years.

Water and salt.

Tough and hearty men worked these mines.

A tasty tour of Callier chocolate factory, founded in 1819. Fascinating to hear the history of chocolate in Switzerland. The Swiss prefer milk chocolate over dark chocolate by a big margin. Switzerland, a tiny country, has the highest consumption of chocolate in the world.  At the end of the tour we had free chocolate - one of every type and I sampled them all. Afterward I asked myself why I had to try all?????

Nearly 200 year old company.

There is a potential for a chocolate shortage by 2020.  Thank goodness big chocolate companies are looking more
at Fair Trade in the future.

Swiss chocolate is so good because they have happy cows.

Fun to watch the processes.

Walked by and could have as much candy
as we wanted.  It was delicious, but I ate too much.

 We had to have a tour of a Swiss cheese factory.  Switzerland is
famous for its cheese, chocolate and watches.

Always interesting seeing processes.

 Le Gruyere AOP cheese has been produced in this region 
since at least 1115.  You can't have cheese fondue without it.

The four of us visited Gruyeres Castle in the medieval town of Gruyeres.  We had an extremely steep hike up to the castle.  It seems from the standpoint of protection all the castles are up, up.  I had to stop about 5 times to rest.  The town is like stepping back in time.  We had lunch, wine and beer.  It was recommended that I try the meringue and whipped cream.  I have never in my life tasted anything like it.  I had told Christiane that I didn't like meringue, but little did I know that I had never really tasted it.  She ordered one and insisted I share.  I wish I had ordered one.  I could live in this town and eat it every day.  Oh, nothing in the world is better than this delectable treat.   

Look up and there is a castle.

This looks like a Hollywood set at Universal Studio

Had to try this popular Swiss drink.  My friends didn't 
highly recommend it and weren't sure I'd like it.  I can't 
really describe it - different. Made from whey.

Town square, this place is so quaint.  

There was a wedding, fun watching their guests walk
around.  It unfortunately rained a little bit, but then stopped.

Famous Swiss cowbells.

 Christiane, me and Jacques and Claude's finger.  Our
friends had fondue, but since Claude and I were going to have raclette that night that would have been "too much cheese." 
Hard to believe, but true.... even in Switzerland.

Oh, I'm drooling looking at this photo.

Walking down hill from the castle.

Switzerland is such a beautiful country.

Claude arranged for us (Claude, Christiane, Jacques, and me) to have a private guided tour of Chillon Castle, a medival fortress on Lake Leman.  Claude's friend is a tour guide there and it was so nice to be taken around and told all the stories and history. 

In 1816, Lord Byron wrote "The Prisoner of Chillon" after 
visiting the castle.

For centuries there was a wine cellar and a wine press at Chillon. Since 2011, Clos de Chillon has reconnected with its past and is making wine again.  Some forty odd barrels are now installed in the first of the castle’s underground rooms, not far from the prison where François Bonivard, the protagonist of Lord Byron’s famous poem The Prisoner of Chillon, had been chained up.

The natural stone at the bottom of the castle.
It is rough and very solid.

700 year old wood ceiling.

Such intricate carving from long ago.  What 
beautiful workmanship.

Our guide, me, Christiane and Jacques.  That
is one huge fireplace we are standing in.

Toilet, two seater.  The waste went right into the lake.

Chapel with faded frescoes on walls

Looking at Lake Leman from Chillon Castle.

Claude drove us up into the mountains to show me the Balloon Museum Chateau D'oex.  A unique and very interesting museum.

In the same town, Claude took me to a most interesting museum that featured découpage (French) or Scherenschnitt (German). I actually had taken a community education class in Boise years ago and made two fun, easy projects.  My class was paper cutting with a sharp Exacto knife. I was so glad to visit this museum and to know that this precious work has been preserved. The finesse is phenomenal.  I can't imagine how many hours went into some of these works.  I was enthralled.  A great museum with so many interesting items that capture some of Switzerland past. I took so many photos, but hard to capture all the beauty.

Typical Swiss scene.  Essential to Swiss life, cows and 
cheese.  The yearly assent and descent of the cows to 
the mountains portrayed in their art.

How many hours did this take?


One sunny day Claude took me out in his boat and we cruised around the lake. We stopped for an authentic traditional Waldensian lunch and Claude said we had to have perch fillets. It was a plate of the little fish, fried perfectly along with a salad, bread and wine (of course) This was the one time I was able to sneak in and pay for a meal.

Claude, born and raised by the lake, loves the 
water and could never live away from it.

Switzerland is so green.  If you turned your head right 
there are huge mountains several miles away

The hillside terraced with vineyards

The pirate flag on Claude's boat

The Vaudoise was out when we were and it 
was fun to see her under full sail from afar

Many beautiful swans out in the lake.

Auberge de Paudex or "pinte communale" which
means in Swiss slang "pub of this village." So charming.

Delicate perfect fish, I could have eaten it for a week.

Paudex, we pulled in to dock on the other side for lunch.
Interesting rails to launch boats, never saw that before.

This looks like a painting from the 1800's.

And for my last night Claude and I walked about half a block to a restaurant know for its raclette - a melted cheese dish.  Having raclette was my only request as I'd had it before. We met with Jean Luc there and stuffed ourselves with cheese.  I think the waiter was astounded that we ate so much, and drank so much - white and red wine and then topped the evening off with several brandies.  I think you pay for the raclette by the plate.  I tried to sneak in and pay the bill, but the waiter said, "Oh no, I've been warned about your tricks and I will be killed if I let you pay the bill."  I was probably lucky I didn't get to pay it because I'm sure it was astronomical.  Switzerland is the most expensive country I visited on my trip.  We had so much fun, poor Claude having to translate half the conversations.  A night I'll always remember with my Swiss friends.

We were feeling no pain.

 Raclette is served with pickles and boiled potatoes.

  A few glasses of wine, a few glasses of brandy..............

Christiane and Jacques invited Claude and me over to their home for a farewell meal.  Christiane made us a nice lunch and we visited.  I wish I spoke French so I could communicate with her.  I know we'd be great friends, she's such a sweet lady.  We had a real chemistry though and did our best in communicating.  They have a beautiful home and it was fun to see where they lived.  I like seeing something besides tourist sights, real Swiss lives.

Vineyard next to Jacques and Christiane's home

 Beautiful glassed in dining room, wonderful pasta lunch.

After lunch Claude, who hates to drive into Geneva, was so kind to drive me to the airport.  Had a hug, said our goodbyes and off I flew to Dublin to rest a few days before I flew home.

A huge thank you to my Swiss friends for hosting me and showing me such a fun filled time in beautiful Switzerland.  I don't think they let me miss anything in the region.  You know you are always welcome in our home.

As Claude would say, ciao, ciao.

This is the end of blogs for my trip to Europe 2016.  It has taken me a long time to finish it.  I tried to do each country justice as to my own experiences.  I hope you have enjoyed coming along.  What a great world it is.  Wish I had more time............  Be sure and make time if you love to travel.  You don't have to do huge or expensive trips -- explore your own city, county, state or great places in the USA.

The new year is here, and there will be lots to see and do.  I don't think I'll do such detailed blogs, more pictures, less commentary, at least I'll try. Then if you have any questions let me know and I'll share what I can with you.