Friday, September 24, 2010

A Day Trip to Switzerland

In our previous visits to Switzerland, we had visited Château de Chillon, a castle on the shore of Lac Léman or Lake Geneva, near Montreux.  Craig in particular was taken with the place, and when we figured out we could drive there in two hours, we decided to drive up, have a nice lunch and visit the castle.

The day dawned sunny but hazy (it had been getting hazier by the day all week), so we took off north, heading to Chillon via Morzine, St-Jean-d’Aulps, Évian-les-Bains, and finally across the Swiss border at St-Gingolph.

We hadn’t had a lunch out at all, so we looked in the Michelin guide for a nice place serving traditional French plat and found a likely candidate in Restaurant de L'Etoile in Noville, a little village in the Rhône river valley just where the river meets Lake Geneva.  High mountains slope steeply down to this narrow valley, which is crammed with crops – the soil must be especially rich because every last square inch was cultivated – corn, winter squash and pumpkins, hardy greens, onions – it smelled great!

The village was literally in the middle of all this, and after a detour due to road construction down one-way lanes through fields, we found the restaurant in the middle of the village.  It was just what we were looking for – small, full of locals (as was usual, we were the only English-speakers in the place) serving great food:
  • Mozzarella with tomato pudding-like thing, potato and black olive tapenade with a watercress and shaved celery salad (Valyn) and terrine of foie gras (Craig)
  • Small pan-fried steak with mixed veggies and rice (Valyn) and lamb chops with mixed veggies and hash browns that looked EXACTLY like what you get at Waffle House
  • Lemon sorbet (shared)
Then it was onto Chillon.  I won’t go on about the place; you can read their web site for yourselves, but here are some pics:
Château de Chillon on the shore of Lac Léman
View from the clock-tower in Chillon
Looking out an archer’s window
Semi-circular tower, for the defence of the Château, with the moat below
Bonivard’s prison, which Byron immortalized in “The Prisoner of Chillon”
“Emergency Exit” onto Lac Léman in the event of the castle being over-run
Craig loves to drive on the mountain roads and we have a great Audi rental car that really drives well.   The high passes are all still open (most are closed due to snow over the winter) so Valyn found a route down the Rhône valley to Martigny (Switzerland), across the Col de la Forclaz (the pass at 1,526 meters), across the French border and back down into Chamonix (1hour and 15 minutes of awesome driving!), then a quick 45 minute drive back to Samoëns from Chamonix, and back up to our lookout point to watch the light of sunset on Mont Blanc.

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