Apart from being famous it’s hard to believe that Charlie Chaplin, Lord Byron, Freddie Mercury and Coco Chanel all have something in common and it’s not their love of the good things in life! It is in fact, that sometime in their lives they resided in Switzerland within the French-speakingregion of Lausanne and Montreux. And it’s not difficult to see why they, along with other celebrities have chosen to call this refreshingly beautiful country their home.
Whether it’s Christmas markets and skiing in the winter, music in the summer, culture in the spring and culinary delights in the autumn, Switzerland is an all year round destination and with it being just under two hours flight time from the UK it’s the perfect place for a little getaway.
We visited in November, when Lausanne and Montreux were alive with their Christmas markets, twinkling lights, culinary delights, mulled wine, hot chocolate and hundreds of artisan gifts – In Lausanne the market is dotted around the town and incorporates their Lumieres light festival, stunning light displays created by local artists. Whilst Montreux has over 160 decorated, illuminated chalets set up along the quays of Lake Geneva, nothing beats wrapping your hands round a warm cup of mulled wine as you take in the festive atmosphere around you.
There’s always plenty of culinary treats to tempt you, including dining in a wooden igloo in the middle of the festive chalets in Lausanne. A real fire burns in the middle of the igloo, creating a warm cosy atmosphere, it was the perfect place to relax and share a platter of artisan meats and cheeses, a cheese fondue and a few glasses of Swiss wine.
All cheese and wined out it was time to hop on the metro (a transport card is given to you for free at every hotel), and head to the Royal Savoy Hotel & Spa, our home for the night.A spectacular Art Nouveau style five star hotel that was originally built in 1909 and painstakingly restored to its pristine beauty. It is now a landmark hotel representing luxury and style complemented by an elegant yet contemporary design.
Lausanne and the surrounding area is a real foodies dream, whether it’s warm cosy eateries such as Café de Grancy, or fine dining the choice is yours, and then of course there’s chocolate – you can’t visit Switzerland and not indulge, in a little Swiss chocolate, although our indulgence was a little more than just eating it, we were trying our hand at making it!
Laderach, the renowned Swiss chocaltiers, in Vevey, is where we went to try out our chocolate making skills – Having resisted the urge to eat all of the shop as we walked through it to the workshop, we donned chefs hat and apron and began with a little chocolate tasting, (it’s amazing how the same chocolate tastes completely different when melted), before trying our hand at creating our very own chocolate bar. It looks and sounds simple, take your mould, run it under the tap of melted chocolate, level it out with a palette knife and decorate with confectionary goodies such as nuts, fudge, candy etc and leave to set – the reality is,chocolate all over my hands, up my arm, and even on my face (don’t ask), but I have to say the finished product looked pretty good, could I get away with selling it in the shop?
If chocolates not your thing (are there people that don’t like chocolate?) and you prefer wine, then a tour and tasting at Les Frères Bovy in Chexbres is a must, as is Chaplin’s World – The “Manoir de Ban” was Chaplin’s actual home it is where he lived his last 25 years with his fourth wife Oona, and theireight children; It’s where he wrote music and movie scripts, and contemplated his legacy, which means it is now far more than just a museum, many of the rooms are replicated to be the same as when Chaplin resided there and the interactive movie sets, black and white photographs, cinema room.his trademark cane and bowler hat make this museum something special, a rare insight into the extraordinary life of a cinematographic genius.
A short train journey from Vevey takes you to Montreux, home to the famous Montreux Jazz Festival and to our hotel the Fairmont Le Montreaux Palace one of the most prestigious hotels in Switzerland. Situated on the shores of Lake Geneva overlooking the Alps. The views from our room were absolutely breathtaking, grab a coffee, sit on your balcony and just look in awe at the mountain and lake views, it’s simply stunning. Elegant architecture, an underground tunnel, a chandelier with one and a half tons of crystal and the world famousMontreux JazzCafé it’s no wonder the likes of Quincy Jones, Ella Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Taylor have stayed here.
The MontreuxJazz cafe, where the guestbook is graffiti on the windows, odd plates, cups, chairs and cutlery around the tables mixed and matched with pictures, vinyl’s, film reels etc on the walls – everything here has been taken from Claude Nobs home (founder of Montreux Jazz Festival). Films of the festivals are shown around the room and a drum from Santana, a guitar from B.B King and a framed Kimono given to Claude from Freddie Mercury are on display – whether you’re a music lover or not you’ll be hard pressed not to find something to talk about, even if its just the food. Although he founded the Montreux Jazz Festival Claude also had a passion for great food, often preparing dishes for artists to enjoy after their performances, thus the menu here is inspired by Claude’s simple but high-quality cuisine, and all aptly named after artists who have performed at the festival such as ‘Quincy Jones Roast Chicken’, ‘Mob Burger’ and ‘BB Cheeseburger”
All too soon our time in the Lake Geneva region was over and it was time to hop on a train back to the airport and contemplate on a trip that had everything – food, culture, luxury hotels, hassle free train travel, music, wine, cheese, chocolate and of course breathtaking views, we’re already booking our return ticket.
SWISS offers regular flights to Geneva (www.swiss.com/gb/en)
To book stays at Royal Savoy visit www.royalsavoy.ch/en
To book stays at The Fairmont Le Montreaux Palace visit www.fairmont.com/montreux
Transfer Tickets (Train from Geneva airport to Lausanne/Montreux) are available from www.swisstravelsystem.com