In Lausanne you will see the lake over the rooftops, the mountains over the lake, the clouds over the mountains, and the stars over the clouds…to paraphrase the novelist Victor Hugo.
Lausanne is a chocolate box town devoid of ugly buildings, claustrophobic crowds and pollution; fringed by the beauty of nature, you can not help falling in love with this city.
And beautiful views and great natural assets aren’t the only fantastic things about Lausanne, as I was to find out on a luxurious day exploring the gastronomy and culture of the city. Lausanne feels like something of a vertical city as the city extends from the harbour of Lac Leman (the local name for Lake Geneva) climbing up and up spanning three tiers high.
But if you can’t take walking up steep hills, there’s a very easy metro system which is accessed with a transport card handed out by the hotels for free. I actually didn’t used the metro much as I loved walking around in the glorious sunshine along the pretty cobbled streets and just taking in this fairytale city.
My guide for the day was Hilary whose first port of call was to show me The Cathedral of Notre Dame, a stunning Gothic jewel which crowns the city of Lausanne.
This 13th Century cathedral is actually the biggest in Switzerland and with its looming towers and spires, it’s a really marvellous piece of architecture.
Inside the cathedral is quite bare having all the statues, painting and altars stripped out during the reformation but there is some beautiful Medieval art work to admire as well as gorgeous stained glass windows.
As well as the largest organ in Switzerland, made up of 700 pipes!
Just outside the Cathedral and standing in the Old Town of Switzerland, I had the most incredible panoramic view sweeping across this gorgeous city.
Just a little further on from the Cathedral is the Escaliers du Marché, a beautifully picturesque flight of covered steps. In this tiered city the stairs are a necessity and were built in the 13th Century to link the town’s markets together. Now descending the stars from the cathedral is a convenient way to get to Place de la Palud, a square that links together several pedestrianised streets.
There are many beautiful fountains in Lausanne but in the centre of Place de Palud is the town’s oldest which is topped with a statue representing justice. Nearby there’s an animated clock that presents the history of the city every hour from 9am to 7pm.
Hilary showed me a beautiful artisan food shop called La Ferme Vaudoise. I love shops like this and I could just spend ages checking out the beautiful cheeses, wines, meats…
But of course, Switzerland always makes me think of chocolate and I was keen to try plenty of the stuff on my day of culture. Hillary led me to La Chocolatiere, a chocolate shop known for being the very best in Switzerland. The owner welcomed us with open arms and immediately suggested a tasting…I think she’d read my mind.
I loved the story of the shop which Mercedes, the owner, recounted as we nibbled on our delicious chocolates. The shop had stood in its position since 1970, and founder Jean-Claude Currat had for years served locals with the most beautiful chocolates, all hand-made with the utmost care. For the current owner, there was nothing better than those divine creations and she told us about the incredible anticipation off buying them, taking them home and the joy of eating them. When the founder told her he was closing the shop, she couldn’t bear the idea and offered to buy it from him. She vowed to learn to make chocolates every bit as good as his and true to her word, the melt-in-mouth chocolate has become a prize-winning treat.
Clearly not quite having had my chocolate fix, our next port of call was Le Barbare, the best hot chocolate cafe in town. It’s the kind of place where they hardly need to ask what you want…of course you’re having the hot chocolate.
And it’s a hot chocolate so thick that’s it more like a pudding, and the cafe’s terrace is the perfect place to enjoy the beautiful day. From there it was a very short ride on the Metro to the pier where I said goodbye to Hilary and boarded ‘Belle Epoque‘, a paddle steam boat which would take me to near by Cully.
From my vantage point at the top of the paddle boat I gazed at the shore line of the beautiful city of Lausanne.
And the glimmering mirror of Lake Geneva reflecting the snowy peaks of the Swiss and Savoy Alps. When I visit a place I often consider how it’s dominated by a particular colour for example in Provence it was green; hillsides, asparagus and vineyards are my dominant memories. Tokyo is red with the vibrant temples, the setting sun and scarlet seafood. Lausanne was blue…the vast expanse of lake, the shadowy alps and the cerulean skies….
We sailed the pretty ports with their fairy tale castles…
And rolling hills…
After a half an hour sail we arrived in the village of Cully in the Lavaux district.
A little early for my lunch, I had time to look around the pretty place, walking past the lakeside restaurant and up a gentle hill
Cully was just so picturesque…in fact it really wasn’t hard to be quite taken with the beauty of this place. The village is actually most famous for the Cully Jazz Festival, an annual event celebrating music and drawing crowds of people to the area.
I stopped for lunch at Le Bistrot, a rustic Mediterranean restaurant with a pavement terrace, perfect for soaking up the sun whilst doing a little people watching.
With a glass of local wine in front of me, I took a moment just to breathe and have a little time of quiet reflection. My visit to Lausanne was my first solo press trip, and actually the first time I’d travelled alone at all! To be honest, I’m not used to going out for lunch alone but I decided just to give myself the time to have a leisurely lunch and *try* to enjoy my own company. Though, if you’re anything like me enjoying your own company for lunch generally means getting you phone out and playing around on social media for about an hour….
The food at Le Bistrot was absolutely delicious and I really enjoyed taking my time over the trout gravalax with avocado and kiwi as I
played on Twitter contemplated the meaning of life.
I loved my light main course too, a tuna tartare with delicious country bread and a bucket of fries though after a morning spent eating chocolate, I did struggle to finish it.
Next it was time for a little further exploration of the Lavaux region and the gorgeous vineyards. Now admittedly I’d never heard of Lavaux and I can’t even think of an occasion when I’ve tried Swiss wine so I was excited at the prospect. It was a short walk from Le Bistrot to Cave de Moratel, a small family run vineyard within the appellation area of Epesses.
I met with the current owner who is the third generation of the family to run the vineyard and she first showed me the cellars where the fermentation and bottling process takes place.
She then suggested that she take me up to their private chalet so that I could sit and admire the view while sampling the wine. The terraced vineyards extend 14 kilometres at a gradient of 90 degrees so we drove up the steep hills admiring absolutely stunning views on the way.
The chalet was perched precariously on the hill-top making the most of the incredible viewpoints.
As I sipped on her delicious wine, the owner of the vineyard told me a little about the Lavaux wine region. It is actually listed by the UNESCO as a ‘cultural landscape’ first established by 11th century monks and perpetuated by wine growers ever since. Mostly white wines and with the Chasseles grape being the ‘King of the region,’ they are actually quite low alcohol making them very easy to drink.
There are eight wine regions in the relatively small area and the wine consistently wins competitions, though it’s rarely found outside the country.
The wine maker took me on a circuit around the region so I could take in the beautiful views but actually its easy to discover the heritage of Lavaux on foot with designated walks through the region. Or if the steep inclines are too much there is train excursions on Lauvaux Panoramic or you can do the loop on the Lavaux Express. Either way visiting the region is a must-do excursion for Lausanne.
After our circuit the wine maker dropped me back at the station for the short trip back to Lausanne…I sat on the train full of wine, chocolate and happy memories of my beautiful day exploring this utterly gorgeous city.
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I was hosted by Lausanne Tourisme for this trip.