Published: October 30th 2008October 23rd 2008
I'm terribly sorry I've been so late in updating...it's midterm week at the castle, and my brains have been a little fried. But the end is in sight!
I'm really not a fan of sleeper trains.
I know I mentioned this in the previous entry, but I figured I should reiterate that statement just one last time. Granted, the view was awesome. Half the night was spent going through Tuscany, and other picturesque parts of Italy, and in the early morning, we journeyed through the Swiss Alps. Awesome. But the unknown stains on the beds, the shady characters walking in the halls outside, and the undesirable bathroom were not as pleasant. Needless to say, we arrived in Lausanne, Switzerland at promptly 8:40. Lausanne is in the French-speaking portion of Switzerland, in the South West. After barely 2 minutes of searching, we found Jacques.
This weekend, friends of the Mariani's had been kind enough to open their house to us. Their names are Jacques and Kiki, and they are the nicest, warmest people. Jacques picked us up at the train station, and Kelsey immediately recognized him! After we chatted a little about our trip, he took us to a
You can see the two wings on the side, and the "body" of the angel in the middle. Most beautiful organ I've ever seen.
cafe, walking distance from the train station. He got us croissants and coffee (I had some delicious concoction in the form of a croissant, with chocolate and almonds in the middle and powdered sugar on top. YUM). We talked a little bit more, about our stay in the castle, when Jacques sister, Michelle, came over to greet us. Turns out that they had planned to take us around the town of Lausanne, and show us all the landmarks! Michelle was a tour guide, so we got our own private tour of the Cathedrale de Lausanne, Musee L'Histoire, and Palaise du Beaux Arts. We climbed the bell tower at the Cathedrale, and sat through an amusing recount of Lausanne's history in the Museum. After all this, Jacques led us to the town square, where there was a huge open market set up, with mostly meat and cheese stands.
"What kind of cheeses would you like to try?" he asked us.
Kelsey, Alysia, and I, who had been momentarily distracted by the very attractive cheese-monger, voted for blue cheese and brie, as well as some Gruyere, the country's specialty. Jacques ended up ordering a LOT of cheese, and we would have it
View from the bell tower
The buildings remind me a lot of Paris. Makes sense, since France is right across the lake.
as our after dinner dessert later in the evening.
With cheese firmly in hand, we went back to the car, and headed to the tiny town of Cully, which is full of vineyards, restaurants, and houses surrounding the Lake. We were headed to a restaurant, who's specialty of Filet de Perche was known throughout Lausanne. Beforehand however, Jacques led us down a friendly looking street to meet some of the vineyard workers. This was the part of Europe I think all of us had been dying to see: the reality. Jacques knew them all, it seemed, as he is quite the connoisseur of wine, and introduced us as "les jeunes filles Americain." The hardworking men greeted us with smiles, and offered Jacques a bottle of "mout". Mout is the juice of the freshly pressed grapes, before it is fermented and turned into wine. The men all talked in fast french to each other, before Jacques bid them adieu, and drove us over to the lake. We sat on a bench, sampling the delicious fresh grape juice, before walking a short way to the restaurant that was our destination.
At lunch, we feasted on the delicious Filet de Perche, a dish
Our wonderful tour guide and friend, Michelle, takes us through the Renaissance palace.
that we don't have in the U.S. (at least in Rhode Island), but definitely should. The pommes frites were scrumptious as well, and we were all stuffed to the gills as we left, and sauntered some more along the river.
After this relaxing afternoon, we headed over to the Olympics Museum: fun fact! Lausanne is the CAPITAL of the Olympics. They have a museum with all the famous athlete paraphernalia, and the council for the Olympics, with delegates from all over the world, meet in Lausanne. Crazy! We didn't know this, obviously. In fact, we all wrongfully assumed that there wasn't much to do in Lausanne. Silly us!
After our hour long guided tour of the museum, we went over to the Swiss equivalent of Starbucks, Nespresso. I don't know what the best part of this chain is: the espresso, the little cakes, the coffee makers, or the fact that George Clooney is the star of all their commercials. The espresso is always freshly brewed, because it's kept in these little caps that you drop into the coffee maker. Amazing.
Finally, we headed back to Jacques and Kiki's house, where Alysia and I met Kiki for the first time, their
son Jonathan, and the family's dog, Scottie! It wasn't long til dinner time, so the three of us gals collapsed in the guest room for a good hour, and snoozed, talked, and unpacked. When we finally decided we should be social again, we found that Jacques had uncorked a bottle of "girly wine" (as Kiki called it), and we talked about our day, the castle, our majors, George Clooney, etc. (he came up a lot this trip). We made our way slowly to the table, and I was surprised to see a small grill in the middle of the table. We would be grilling our own meats, of which there were many choices, and the next two hours were filled with delicious food, raucous laughter as we tried to flip our meat on the griddle, and more wine (it's Jacque's second love, besides Kiki). After a curiously interactive meal, we placed a call to the Mariani's and talked with them on speaker for a little while. Kelsey and I balanced this with quick trips back into the dining room to eat some of the cheese platter.
OH MY GOD, THE CHEESE.
Okay, I don't really know where to start. Basically,
And the Alps!
the brie had truffles in the middle of it, and it was the creamiest brie I've ever tasted. WOW. Sheer mushroom power. The Stilton blue cheese was my second favorite, closely followed by the old Gruyere. There's a soft seasonal cheese, which I believe is called "Mont D'Or" that I wasn't particularly fond of, but I have a feeling it was because I had sampled such spectacular cheeses previous to it. The cheese was paired with green grapes. Most awesome dessert ever.
By the time we all crawled into our bed, slightly warm from all the food and wine (gosh darn it, Jacques), we were dog tired, and looking forward to a day of roadtripping through the Swiss Alps.
And roadtrip, we did! We woke up at 9, which was nice. We'd been having to wake up at around 6 for the past few weekends. We walked downstairs to a full breakfast awaiting us on the table. Fresh bread, croissants, FRESHLY SQUEEZED orange juice, (!!!!!), nutella, jam, fruit, etc. Jacques encouraged us to eat a big breakfast, because it would be a while before we'd have a chance to stop during our travels. After about an hour, we were breakfasted
and ready to head into the mountains.
Our first stop was Gruyere, the birthplace of the cheese. We visited the Gruyere factory, and learned how the cheese was made, and how the cows were led seasonally from the mountains to be milked (poya). The best part? Our audio guide was a cow, named Cherry, with a British accent. Alysia and I went nuts. Kelsey, who had been to the factory before, had cleverly left out this detail. We spent about a half hour going through the factory, which culminated in a visit to the cheese cellar. Well, we couldn't go inside. But we could see it behind glass. Stacks and stacks of Gruyere...yummm.
A hop, skip, and a jump away was the town of Gruyere, a town surrounded by a castle, up on a hill. It's a cute, fairytale-like place, and the views of the Alps are just staggering. We didn't stick around for long, however, because our next stop was Gstaad, and we had a little ways to go before we got there.
For those who don't know, Gstaad is the place in Switzerland where a lot of famous people like to vacation. It's in the German-speaking section of
My favorite piece of modern art. Ever.
Switzerland, and it surrounded by glaciers. While we didn't see any famous people around, we sure felt famous when we were served at "The Apple Pie Cafe". We ate huge slices of apple pie, covered in powdered sugar, and Alysia and I got Christmas tea. Everything tasted like home :). And we were sitting next to cute snowboarders, so it was doubly awesome.
After our brief walk-through of Gstaad, we set out on a windy trip through the Alps, and back around to Lausanne. The trek through the mountains was amazing. I wish I could put into words the exact beauty we saw, but it's impossible. The weather was sunny and brisk, and the ski lifts were transporting people up to the glaciers to go skiing and boarding. By the time we left the mountains in our tracks, it was about 4 in the afternoon, and our next stop was the Freddy Mercury statue. We were very excited, and posed with Freddy before walking along Lake Geneva with Jacques to see the casino, with its mirrored walls. Our walking tour was short, and soon we were returning to Kiki at the car, and heading to the Tivoli Cafe, which was
known throughout Switzerland for it's fondue.
The last time I had fondue, I'm pretty sure it was a traumatizing experience...I don't know why, I just have that feeling, and I didn't like the cheese. But, this time we were in Switzerland, in a "local flavor" restaurant, with an accordion player in the other room playing waltzes and polkas. The pot of cheese was huge, and soon, we were dipping, twisting, and devouring what was sure to be pounds and pounds of melted Gruyere. Yum! Following this , we enjoyed meringues with...DOUBLE CREAM, as Kiki called it, emphasizing the "double". Obviously, after such a heavy meal, we were all tired, full, and content. The drive home was short, and we still had two hours to catch our train back. Back at the house, we packed up our stuff with gusto, and were all kind of looking forward to our return back to the castle, which we hadn't seen in a week and a half: it had become like a second home to us, and our friends like a second family, who we couldn't wait to tell all our travel stories to. We got to the train station at 8:30, 15 minutes
before our train departed. We gave Jacques our heartfelt thanks, and he hugged us all before we boarded, and made the 2 hour journey to Basel, our first stop over. I got a little paranoid when the train started to go backwards, because I've had a not so great history with trains going backwards, but it turned out that we were still on the correct route. We arrived in Basel at 11 PM, and we hopped onto our connecting train to Dusseldorf. Now, we had booked this train with the knowledge that all the sleeper compartments were filled up, thinking that we'd be able to sleep on the train. The engineers of the train, however, clearly didn't think about the fact that people might want to snooze comfortably in their seats. The backs of the chairs were at an awkward angle, so your neck was forced up. Not ideal. I tried to lie down on the seat next to me, but the arm rest wouldn't go down, and it ended up squishing me into a very undesirable position. Because of this, all three of us ended up not sleeping for the 6 hour journey. By the time we got to
Dusseldorf, we were all royally ticked off, and freezing. When we got on the intercity train to Venlo, though, the heat was pumping through the compartments, and provided for a much comfortable return to the Netherlands. When in Venlo, we caught a bus back to Venlo, and our hearts leapt as we stepped off the bus at our stop. We knew we were home when the smell of horse manure wafted towards our nostrils. Ah, country living. The castle was so inviting, with its glinting lights, and promise of a comfortable bed and internet access. We were so tired that we couldn't muster a smile, but the thought was there. By 9, I was back in my own bed, and by 11:30, we were with our "family", exchanging stories and laughing tiredly.
I guess we learned that no matter how much you travel, and how exciting the places are that you're going, there really is nothing like familiarity, and home, and while I'm not at my real home, or my Boston home, I have become fond enough of this place to call it my own.
But I still think the Dutch use too much paprika.
It wouldn't be an
issue if they didn't use it to flavor EVERYTHING.
And they do.
Thanks for putting up with my entries, and I love you all, and am so appreciative that you read this, and care about me :)
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