Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Day 9, June 7 (Geneva, Montreux, Grueyere, Broc)

This was our last full day of the trip, as we were scheduled to fly out of Geneva to Munich in the early afternoon on June 8th.

We were looking to take full advantage of this day, as we had planned to take a ride on the Chocolate Train out of Montreux (http://europeforvisitors.com/switzaustria/vaud/canton/swiss-chocolate-train.htm & http://www.eurorailways.com/products/scenic_trains/choco.htm).

Montreux is about 1 hour drive from Geneva, and the train leaves at 9:36 AM, so we had a quick breakfast at the hotel (very much up to our high :) standards!) and were on our way to the Montreux station. We had some difficulties finding the exact address of the station (only found the street the station was on), so we had to give ourselves a bit of extra time to be able to find the station.

Drive to Montreux was nice, but uneventful, and we arrived to Montreux without much trouble. It took us a few minutes to find the station (took a wrong turn initially), but Montreux is pretty small town, so we found the parking lot next to train station fairly quickly.

We picked up our tickets, which were not cheap, as you have to buy a first class ticket for 60CHF from Montreux to Broc via Greuyere and pay extra 28CHF to reserve a seat on the Chocolate Train.

We have reserved seats in the Pullman Express "Belle Epoque" vintage carriage, which is fun for a while, but if you value comfort, it may not be the best choice. In addition, our carriage had the bar in it, so after a while it became a pit stop for everyone who wanted to get drunk on the train... Anyway, we were pretty determined to have a good time, so we tried to overlook the small things.

The scenery in Montreux is very pretty, as the train climbs the side of the hill for the first 20 - 30 minutes of the ride, so you get plenty of opportunities to take wonderful pics.

Our first stop was Gruyere Cheese factory. The factory is strategically located near the station to provide easy access to tourists, and it's really a showcase factory. However, the bulk of Swiss cheese (the same one used for many wonderful Swiss dishes) produced in the country is made very close at the real cheese factory in one of the small towns near by.

The factory tour was educational, but very much commercialised (you get your own audio guide on the tour). Lots of souvenirs are available in the factory stores along with large variety of Gruyere cheese (the same cheese, different packaging).

After the factory tour, a bus took us to the nearby village for a visit of the local castle. The castle visit was actually pretty interesting, as many generations of local counts have lived at that place.

The local town is pretty much maintained for tourists and full of restaurants, souvenir shops, etc. We had lunch in one of those restaurants, which was OK, but not as good as other places we have visited in Switzerland.

We bought a few souvenirs and walked down to the train station (10-minute walk) instead of waiting for a bus.

The next stop was Cailler/Nestle chocolate factory in Broc. The visit was educational, but nothing out of ordinary (you can find all of the information about the chocolate making process on the Internet and your experience is not going to be less intersting than ours). You do get to taste all the different kinds of chocolates though... :)

We were ready to head back to Montreux at that point... Some people (I believe they were local CH middle age guys; not sure why they were even on the tour) were getting pretty wasted on the overpriced beer at the train bar. It was pretty difficult to share the carriage with those folks... Thankfully, they got off the train only 20 minutes or so after we started our trip back to Montreux. The entire first class car was empty, so we moved to that car. The rest of the trip was pretty nice, as we were able to relax after all the walking in the nice seats. It started to rain pretty heavily, but scenery was still very pleasant.

We arrived to Montreux on time, got quickly to our car planning to drive to Geneva right away. Then we thought about potential traffic we may hit on our way to Geneva at this hour (around 6 PM), and decided to stay in Montreux for dinner. It was our opportunity to do a bit of exploring of the small town on the lake.

We had a pretty nice dinner at one of the places near the water (too bad it was raining, otherwise the view would have been amazing).

We headed back to Geneva, as it was starting to get dark. We were a bit sad, as this was our last evening before going home, but we did miss our two kids and were looking forward to getting back to the normal life.

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