Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Vevey, Switzerland

Nestled into the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman as it is known to locals and French speakers) is the charming town of Vevey. Touristicly, it is lumped together with the better known Montreux , home to the world renowned annual jazz festival -- a very glitzy city indeed. Vevey is smaller, more quiet, more old-school. It is a living Swiss city; Not too many tourists, but a holiday destination all the same. It can be reached from Geneva airport in about 45-60 minutes. My friend and I could only stay for two days, but were able to take in a decent amount of local color to get a sense of the lovely, old town.
We planned our trip so that we would be in Vevey for the Saturday market. A formidable outdoor market, it covered a few acres with vendors selling regional produce, cheeses, meats, honey, soaps and candles, wines from the vineyards surrounding Vevey and a good number of antiques dealers. We spent a couple of hours just strolling the aisles and people-watching.
We then decided to treat ourselves at our hotel's spa. Hotel des Trois Couronnes was absolutely fabulous. Right in the old town, smack dab on the lake, in a century's old Belle Epoque building that has been restored expertly to retain it's historic grandeur, while adding full modernity, luxury and comfort.
I knew things would go well when at check in they served us a welcome glass of champagne (at noon) and asked us to sit in the impressive but comfortable lobby on a big, comfy couch while they checked us in-- no standing at the counter.
Our room was huge by any standards, U.S. or European. I reserved the cheapest room in the hotel, Sfr 410 (about $330) for a double. Three huge windows, two twin beds, a love-seat, two chairs and a table, a desk and chair and an entry hall. The bathroom was granite, dark woods and massive with a separate WC.
The Puressens Spa was fabulous. A beautiful steam bath, large, pristine sauna, a good size indoor pool and a 'lounging area' where one can chill-out after a massage, facial, pedicure or whatever was on the pampering schedule that day. An attendant brings cups of herbal tea or Evian water (Vevey is just across the lake from Evian).
I laid there in the squishy, lounge chair, gazing out the floor to ceiling windows at Lac Leman. My mind drained and I actually relaxed; something I hadn't been able to do in two and a half years. I was so mellow in fact, that I wasn't even phased when an elderly gentleman, plopped down in the lounge chair next to me spread eagle, wearing a far-too-revealing banana hammock. He was, clearly very relaxed, too.
The hotel restaurant is very good and very expensive. To give you some idea, a gin and tonic was Sfr 22 (about $17). But the outside dining has beautiful vistas along the lake. Breakfast was served inside and was an excellent buffet of cold meats, smoked fish, cheeses, fruits, yogurts, breads, cereals, juices coffe and tea. It was included in the cost of the room.
I left Vevey wanting to stay a few more days (but alas, could not afford it). So we set off headed for Bellagio, Italy. On the way we passed through Montreux and stopped in Chateau Chillon-- a gorgeous, popular castle that is absolutely worth a visit because of it's unique lake location and architectural beauty, as well as it's historical significance.
One could tour around Swiss Lac Leman, visiting Lusanne, Geneva, Montreaux, Vevey and then skip over to the French side for a week or two. It is lovely to drive around, or better yet, criss-cross the lake in a ferry.

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