Originally published 20 December 2015
On Lake Geneva, with the Alps and France in the background
We switched modes today.....going from travelING, to being travelERS. The difference is, travelling is just going point to point, like flying from Atlanta to Paris. Nothing to see, you're just covering ground. Being a traveler means getting out with the locals, eating the food, talking to the people. Today, we were definitely travelers. So many new sights, sounds, tastes, and people. Today was incredible.
We slept until 11 a.m., something neither of us ever do....but we were totally fried and needed the rest. We got up, packed, and the shuttle from the hotel took us straight back to the airport......not because we were going to fly, but because they have a train station right in the airport.
Our hotel in Montreaux
It is not uncommon in parts of Europe to go to the train stop in your neighborhood, get on a train that goes straight into an airport, and then fly anywhere in the world. It is a more compact society here, they are not "spread out" like in the U.S. We are a very vast country, something Europeans have difficulty grasping. Because of this, we drive more often.
We purchased our Swiss travel passes, good for 8 days. We then boarded the train and headed towards Lausanne for the Christmas market, arriving in under an hour. We locked our packs in a train station locker then struck out to find our very first European Chrismas market.
We asked a woman on the street for directions, who informed us that it wasn't that great, and if we wanted to go to a good Christmas market, go to Montreaux. We had planned to all along and told her that. Laurie then asked "should we skip this one and just go to Montreaux?" She told us that we should get back on the train and head to Montreaux as it was much better. Laurie asked how to get there from the train and she replied "just follow the people". We took her advice. It was a very smart move as we would soon find out.
Montreaux along the lake
We arrived in Montreaux, got off the train and left the station. There were people everywhere and they were all headed to the Christmas market. It also turns out that our hotel was right in the middle of all of it! We walked through part of the market to our hotel, checked in, dropped our packs, and went out to join all the locals who were having fun! Man, what a show!
We walked into the middle of the festival, which is on the banks of Lake Geneva. They call this area the Swiss Riviera and in the summer, I would bet it is. There are many old style European hotels with grand lobbies and balconies overlooking the lake. In the summer it boasts the Montreaux Jazz festival, and hosts people from all over Europe on vacation.
In the market, there are all matter of Christmas items, Swiss foods, decorations, and thousands and thousands of people. There is a ferris wheel, cheese and sausage sellers, and people selling traditional foods. We stopped at a booth and and bought gluhwein, a Swiss mulled wine. A little later, we bought raclette. This is a Swiss dish of small potatoes, that have a melted and scraped cheese on top of them. It was quite tasty!
We wandered the festival, looking at everything. It is so interesting to see how other people celebrate holidays. Many customs are the same or similar to ours, but with subtle differences. Their food is pretty killer as well.
Along the shore, watching the sun set
We stopped and went in a cigar store right next to some of the market stalls and bought small Cuban cigars, something we cannot get in the states. We chatted with the owner of the shop for a few minutes then adjourned to the lake shore where we sat on a rock and watched the sun go down as we smoked our cigars. We started to see lights across the lake as the fog broke. The lights were from small towns in France, and you can take a boat from the waterfront, right across the lake to the french village. It was a very nice end to the daylight...but not yet an end to our day.
As we strolled, everyone was looking up. They have a wire, between two towers over the edge of the lake and over the festival. It seems the wire carried Santa and his reindeer! Santa stopped and spoke to the crowd from his sleigh.....it was in French so we're not quite sure what he said. He was, however, quite well received by the locals, especially the kids!
We haven't had dinner and wound up sharing a bowl of tartifflette. This is a local dish containing potatoes, onions, bacon, and cheese...and a little cream. It was cooked in a very large skillet/wok type thing, right in front of your eyes. We shared one and that's probably good. I would be willing to bet that if you ate one by yourself, it comes with a free stent. It was incredibly good, but a tad on the rich side!
We grab a sweet treat for later (coffee macaron for Laurie and a cannoli for me). Then back to our room for some down time. We're not fully past the jet lag and we're tired. So we will be turning in as soon as I am finished in the shower.
It was an amazing day........lets see if we can top it tomorrow.
A slide show of all the Christmas Market fun!
I'm Bill. My wife Laurie and I love to travel and share our stories. We especially love it when we have been able to motivate our readers to start traveling on their own, and making their own stories.
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