Saturday, September 13 – An afternoon in Montreux

Sunny and warm

Today we had our fill of hiking and took a day away from it – we drove to Montreux! It was just over an hour drive from Saanen. We went in the direction of Chateaux d’Oex then Bulle and then onto the Autoroute. On the way back we another route, towards Aigle, then up into the mountains, which took about the same length of time.

Driving into Montreux was easy – not much traffic and it is a small town (population about 20,000). There are big parking lots in the downtown area. We pulled into the one in the Palace Hotel (a big hotel on the main street, looking towards the lake). It was nearly 2pm and there were not many people about – everyone was having lunch I think! We walked around looking for a street with lots of restaurants and finally found a main street up by the train station.

It turns out that we parked a few blocks short of the main area and if we had walked a few blocks along the lake we would have got to the main area. But we ended up in a nice area, just outside the busy tourist area and had a great lunch on a terrace overlooking the town and the lake. Steve had perch and I had cheese-tomato fondue (we both liked our dishes). I also had a salad, which was very fresh and great, but so far the best salad I have had on the trip was in Konstanz (where they have a small island where they grow all their salad ingredients).

After lunch we walked through the shopping area which now was full of people. We found a bookstore and I bought “Living and Working in Switzerland” by David Hampshire. He wrote the Italy version of this book with Mary Jane Cryan, a member of our message board. We went into a few drugstores looking for a tube of French Clay that we had got on previous trips (you use it for a face mask), but we did not find it. Big splurge – I bought a hairbrush made in Switzerland.

Then we walked along the lake. The lake is huge and beautiful. Across the lake are the very high peaks of the alps above Evian (France). We have been buying six-packs of Evian water because here it is “local”. You can look towards the peaks in the Valais. Montreux is built along the water and up the steep hillside, like towns on the French Riviera. There is a lakeside promenade all along the town and continues onto the other towns on the lake, I think. In Montreux, the promenade is planted with flowering bushes, flowers, palm trees.

At one point we came to some crafts market with crowds of people – we didn’t stop to look. Around 4pm we left and drove along the lake to Aigle, then up through the vineyards into the mountains to Gstaad.

“He is on his way to Gstaad.”
“Gstaad?”
“Yes, today a paradise in the Swiss Alps. Tomorrow a wasteland.”
– Movie, The Return of the Pink Panther, 1975

For the last two weeks we have been looking up to the Palace Hotel, a castle-like hotel (with turrets) sitting above Gstaad. We drove up there. This is where the Return of the Pink Panther was filmed. We have a copy of the movie but forgot that it took place in Gstaad. A friend in Santa Fe started quoting the movie when we told him we were going to Gstaad, so we watched the movie again. You don’t see much of Gstaad in the movie: a scene at the train station, one on the road to the hotel, another in the revolving doors of the hotel and in the lobby. The rest takes place in a hotel room. We recognized the road to the hotel and the entrance from the movie. I asked the man at the desk if he had been there when they made the movie. No, but people still come to the hotel because of the movie. It is a lovely old-world type of hotel, with balconies looking out to Gstaad below and all the surrounding mountains.

We had a drink in the bar – sitting in one of the turrets with views over the whole valley. The sun sets late here – not until after 7pm even at this time of year. We must be pretty far north. If you draw a line from Santa Fe around the world, it is at the same longitude (or is it latitude?) as Northern Africa.

Home to do laundry and ironing. Microwave popcorn for dinner tonight after our huge lunch.

Ironing is much easier in Europe because of the higher voltage. The iron is very hot. Tea in our electric kettle boils in a couple of minutes. Of course, if you stick your finger in the socket, you die – but the benefit is easy ironing.

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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.