Monday, September 8 – day trip to Gruyeres

Overcast, clouds on the mountaintops, sunny off and on, warm

This was to be the big road trip day!! We went into Saanan for breakfast (Fruhstuck) at a café (24 CHF for two – 2 coffees each and a basket of bread and croissants). There are two cafes in town, both small and nice.

We got gas (we were just below ½). The small Mercedes (C Class) seems to get good mileage – this was the first time we filled up on this trip. Gas is cheaper in Switzerland than in Germany (1.35 CHF / liter for unleaded). It took us a few minutes to figure out the automatic payment machine, but we ended up just pushing in a credit card and everything worked. 46.39 CHF for just over ½ tank.

It took about 20 minutes to drive to Gruyeres, in the Fribourg canton. I had read about this town in my Michelin guidebook and have always liked their cheese, so thought we would drop in here on our way to the Autobahn and then Montreaux .

We spent our whole day in Gruyere and never made it to Montreaux. We got a late start and didn’t reach Gruyere until noon (story of this whole week!). Then we had a long walk around and a long lunch and a long museum visit – – and the day was over! Gruyere is a “tour bus town”!! It is an old village with a castle, set up on a hill overlooking the river and valley – just like an Italian hilltown! There is a series of parking lots outside of town. The closest parking lot was full (cars and tour buses), so we parked in the next one and climbed up the hill to the town. The town is very small, but really cute – and all about tourists! Cheese and chocolate shops, hotels, restaurants (all serving fondue and raclette), touristy shops. The streets are cobblestone, every building is covered in overflowing window boxes (beautiful). We walked around town, looked at the view from the castle walls, walked around the castle (did not go in because sometimes these “must sees” really bore me), then went for lunch.

We picked a good looking place with a large outdoor terrace so we could watch the town action. We still did not see any other Americans – mostly German and French speaking tourists. I had my fondue for the trip and it was excellent – a pot of bubbling cheese with a big pile of potatoes to dip into it. Steve (not a cheese lover) had a local fish. Every single restaurant displayed the price of fondue and raclette outside – and they were all the same (21 CHF fondue, 26 CHF raclette). Price fixing – – or finely tuned competition. My fondue did not come with pickles – they had to be ordered separately (and I did) – so I see how they keep their prices down.

Being in the French speaking region, my own knowledge of French comes flooding back and I almost feel fluent. Seven years of French in school in Canada were not wasted!! If I needed the door closed, or the window opened, I could easily express myself! I could also tell someone my name!!

After lunch, we went to the local museum. Museum HR Giger. This is a Swiss surrealist who won an Oscar for the set design of the movie “Alien”. What an odd location for this type of museum. We had no idea it was here, but are both big fans of science fiction, so we went in. Many, many paintings of “Alien” themes. Many images of penises and female butts – and many different things going into the latter. Strange renditions of nipples (some as tongues, some as knives). Really, really creepy and odd, yet also interesting.

We saw a movie recently, “Max”, which was a story of Hitler as a young man – the story was that he was an artist who had created a whole world in paintings (the world he eventually created in Germany), but he decided that since he was rejected as an artist, he would approach politics as art (and create his dream world). Well, Giger has created a whole world in these paintings – a futuristic, half machine – half human, world. Some paintings were of cities, some of “people”.

It was getting late, so we decided to skip Montreaux and drove back home. Stopped at Chateau d’Oex for groceries (they have a large Coop). Also walked around the town again (very small). I bought some Swiss icecream at the Coop – excellent! Simple dinner at home (leftovers).

I have started a new web site job and am in that wonderful beginning phase where all the design ideas are floating around my head. I will have to work a couple of days this week to get the first phase done on this project before we go to Italy. Steve read about a big storm predicted for tomorrow for northern Italy; if we get bad weather here I can declare it a working day. Today is the first day of our second week here – we leave for Levanto one week today. I have a few good hikes picked out and maybe we will get to Montreaux (or maybe we will just have a day in nearby Lenk).

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.