Morges to Montreux
May 10, 2008
|Day 13 – Morges, Gruyere and to Montreux
We had a good sleep, and got up and got ready for our day trip to Gruyere. However, I had a scratchy, sore throat, and must have caught a cold. Oh well, probably because I was feeling run-down as well.
We had two types of bread for breakfast – a braided white bread not unlike Easter bread (but without the fruit), and a dark, nutty Ticino bread, which was quite tasty.
Once we got our luggage packed, we stuffed ourselves in the car. Actually, it was quite roomy, considering there were four adults, two kids, and our luggage. We headed off for about an hours drive northeast of Morges to Gruyere, to visit the cheese factory.
We saw lots of pasture on the way, plus a bit of the French Alps across Lac Leman. We were lucky enough to have another sunny, warm day, and I enjoyed looking at the Swiss scenery – rolling pasture with the Alps as a background, little villages in the valleys with church steeples above, and lots of cattle, either brown and white or black and white, like Holsteins.
We arrived at the cheese factory, which is actually below the town of Gruyere itself, which is a walled town perched on a hill. The factory is quite the tourist attraction, and has a display which describes the farming, cows and their fodder, and how the cheese is made. They also had a series of scent stations, where you could smell each of the alpine fauna that cows eat that will influence the taste of the milk (and therefore the cheese), like thyme, lavender, and other grasses and wildflowers.
Finally, there was a viewing area where you could watch the cheese being made. Since we had about an hour or so until the next demonstration, we decided to walk up to the town and have a look around. It was a hard slog, and I was feeling pretty crummy at this point, but it was so beautiful, that I enjoyed it despite my cold. And, I had my Swiss experience, hearing the cow bells faintly across the meadows.
The town itself is so picturesque, on its hill overlooking the valleys below and the Alps beyond. We walked a little bit and came upon the H.R. Giger Museum, the Swiss artist who designed the Alien alien. A few of his sculptures were outside, and they looked like a cross between Art Nouveau, fantasy art, and horror. I wish we could’ve gone inside, but we had the kids with us (I think it would’ve scared them) and we just didn’t have enough time. I’ll put it on our to-see list for next time we come here.
A little further on, we came upon the Chateau, which is a grand medieval castle. Again, we didn’t have time to go inside, but we got some great photos, from the terrace, of the church and graveyard below and the lovely scenery beyond.
We started back down to the cheese factory, and went back inside to watch it being made. The milk, which had been in these huge copper vats being stirred, had separated into curds and whey, and next it was pumped into the molds, where the whey would drain away and the curds would settle. In there, they would be pressed into rubbery disks, each weighing 35 kg, and aged anywhere from 6 to 10 months, while being periodically turned and brushed in brine. At the ticket office, they gave out samples of the 6, 8, and 10 month cheeses. I was surprised to find the 10 month was milder than the 8 month.
Afterwards, we headed to Montreux and our hotel. We came over a mountain pass, to the town, which is terraced like so many along the north shore of Lac Leman, with pretty homes and hotels and a waterfront walking path. Being a big wine-producing region, we saw acres of vineyards on terraced plots. The leaves are just starting to come out.
Our hotel is one of the Swiss Historic Hotels (a chain), and was a former vineyard owner’s, built around 1850. It is a white building, with green shutters and wrought-iron balconies draped in vines in bloom with gorgeous lavender flowers. The inside is decorated with floral wallpaper and Victorian furnishings, and is very atmospheric. Our room, on the ground floor, is lovely, with two windows that open out over our semi-private terrace with views over the roofs of the houses down to the lake below and the French Alps across.
We said our goodbyes to Sheena and Daniel and the kids, and checked in. We were both feeling quite weary at this point from being on the go for two weeks, and looking forward to some downtime in this lovely place.
Our dinner was in the pretty dining room upstairs, and we had pasta with olive oil and wild garlic, cream of mushroom soup, roast chicken in curry sauce with roasted potatoes and almond broccoli for our main, then fresh fruit salad for dessert. The food was excellent, but I’m afraid we were too tired to appreciate it fully.
We went back to the room, and read for a little while and watched BBC Prime (yay, English language, no commercials!). However, I couldn’t stay awake very long, and soon fell asleep.