Places to Love: Lake Geneva and the Valais Region, Switzerland
Switzerland has a beauty that goes unmatched. Mountains, shimmering lakes, vibrant cities, terraced vineyards… all housed in a small but mighty country. Switzerland is also home to some of the friendliest people on the planet, and getting to know those behind Swiss traditions and treasures is well worth it. Here’s why Lake Geneva and the Valais Region are places to love.
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PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE
St. Bernard Puppies… need I say more?
Heaven is a place on earth, and I found it in Barryland. This magical place lets regular people learn the history of, then interact with Switzerland’s National Dog, the St. Bernard. After nearly being licked to death by puppies (swoon!), I had the opportunity to take one for a walk… or vice versa. The main purpose of Barryland is to breed these rare gentle giants, as well as train them to be therapy dogs. Some are also trained in search-and-rescue. Fun fact: there is no historical evidence that St. Bernards have ever carried liquor barrels around their necks.
Carouge: Geneva’s Naughty Counterpart
There’s a neighborhood in Geneva that’s in a world of its own. Built by an Italian King in the late 1700s, the Carouge neighborhood was meant to compete with Geneva. Today, this part of Geneva has earned a reputation for being more laidback, and full of artisans. The inhabitants like to think of it as Geneva’s naughty little brother, an idea I can get behind!
The area boasts many specialized shops, including Philippe Pascoët, a Swiss master chocolatier. Believe it or not, Pascoët is regarded as the first Swiss chocolatier to go beyond the Swiss milk chocolate tradition. You’ll find dark chocolates, as well as chocolates filled with unexpected flavors like earl grey, and lavender ganache. It’s a wonder I ever even left this shop!
IF YOU GO
You’ll find so many chocolates to choose from, it can get overwhelming! Pascoët’s most notable seller is the passionfruit, so if I’s suggest starting there.
Philippe Pascoët Chocolatier
Rue de la Cité 15
+41 (0) 22 810 81 89
The Swiss: Always on time
Another must-see in Carouge? M. Jean Kasez’s clock workshop. This master clockmaker has been creating custom clocks in the neighborhood for over 45 years! His designs are each made by hand and show the timepiece’s inner workings. Why cover up the cool stuff? These one-of-a-kind creations take about three months to complete, but they’re truly masterpieces.
IF YOU GO
Ask about Kasez’s 30-meter tall pendulum clock, which is the biggest in the world. Yep, Guinness Book of World Records made it official!
Créations Kazès Genève
21, rue Saint-Joseph 1227
T: +41 22 343 30 91
Take Swiss punctuality home with you
Where I come from, you can find DIY painting and pottery classes. In Geneva, you can build your own Swiss watch! Seriously, how cool is that? I visited Initium to partake in the 500-year-old art of watchmaking. Armed with tiny tools and a magnifying eyepiece, I tried reassembling just a few pieces in a Swiss-made watch. I appreciated them before, but after this… wow!
Meet the Eloise of Geneva
Did you ever daydreamed of living in a luxury hotel as a kid? I can admit those daydreams continue into my adulthood! Few people on earth know what that lifestyle is like, and Jacques Mayer is one of them. The hotel Beau Rivage on Lake Geneva was opened by Mr. Mayer’s great-great-grandparents in 1865, making this one of the few Grand Dame hotels in the world that is still family-owned. Its clientele has raised eyebrows for well over a century, from politicians to movie stars. Many of the rooms are named after notable guests, including Elizabeth Taylor and Charles de Gaulle.
One suite is named after Eleanor Roosevelt who stayed here in 1947 as she was drafting the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
13 quai du Mont-Blanc
+41 22 716 66 66
An Homage to Hollywood
“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” For me, visiting Chaplin’s World is a great way to ensure you hit your daily laugh quota. Charlie Chaplin remains one of the most recognizable and beloved film stars of all time. He resided in the stunning Manoir de Ban for the last 25 years of his life. In 2016, his family officially turned the estate into a museum.
The museum contains thirty wax sculptures, as well as his piano, violin, and costumes. I loved the countless screens throughout the museum, as well as sound stages and mini theaters– all encouraging visitors to play, and more importantly, laugh.
DID YOU KNOW?
British-born Chaplin left the United States for Europe on what was supposed to be a brief vacation in 1953. He’d been accused of “un-American” activities during the McCarthy-era years, and ended up permanently calling Switzerland home until his his death in 1977.
Route de Fenil 2 CH
Live Music in the World’s Hospitality Hub
A forty-minute train ride from Geneva, you’ll find the city of Lausanne. Known for its Universities, business and hospitality schools, this place feels young at heart. Yes, even despite of its Gothic appearance! And where there are young people, there are music festivals. I visited during Festival Cite, a music and art event held on the cobblestone streets leading up to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, built over 800 years ago. I loved listening to local artist Melissa Kessab, who grew up in the mountains of the Valais region. The city hosts indoor and outdoor festivals all year long, showcasing every type of music imaginable.
IF YOU GO
Every July, the Paléo Festival takes place between Lausanne and Geneva. It’s sort of like Switzerland’s version of Coachella. Big crowds, cool bands, in a jaw-dropping setting.
Looking for a reason to visit Lausanne? Check out the many festivals hosted there!
Unparalleled Beauty from a Shimmering Lake
The beautiful Belle Epoque Boats operate on many Swiss lakes, but the most notable trip is on Lake Geneva. The locale not only boasts spectacular scenery, but also has the largest fleet of Belle Epoque steamers. These boats date back to 1904, and though the engines have been updated, their appearance largely has not. Enjoy a breakfast, lunch or dinner cruise aboard, making sure to soak up the stunning views along the way.
IF YOU GO
These boats actually operate year-round, though peak summer offers the most cruise options. In the winter, you can enjoy a Sunday breakfast onboard.
Visit CGN’s website for information on cruises, timetables, tickets and more.
The Best Wine Region You’ve Never Heard of
I’d never thought of Switzerland as a wine region, and there’s a reason for that. Swiss wine is all made by hand– not a machine in sight! It’s created only in small batches, and they’re almost exclusively consumed within the Switzerland. I visited the Lavaux region, whose wine roots date back to the 11th Century. Cecile and Pascal Dance invited me to enjoy some of the creations made at Dance Vineyards. The quintessential Lavaux grape is the Chasselas. It renders a light, crisp, slightly salty wine. They’re typically low-alcohol, too, which is great for day drinking!
IF YOU GO
The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces is an UNESCO World Heritage site, protecting the vineyards running along Lake Geneva. The best way to explore is by hiking. You’ll find 35 km of trails, roads and steps running parallel to Lake Geneva. Take a full day to do the whole thing, or for something a little more low-key, just do a section.
Domaine Pascal & Cécile Dance
Rue du Village 4
The Sound of Switzerland
There’s one sound that is so inextricably linked to Switzerland. Pastoral, calming, rich– even if you’re not Swiss, the alphorn sounds like the musical version of comfort food. Historically, the alphorn was used to alert others of enemies, natural disasters as well as simply calling to people. Today, it’s mostly played for fun.
I had the great pleasure of visiting the mountain resort of Nendaz for the International Alphorn Festival. Up to 150 alphorn players congregate from around the world to play together. Of course all I wanted to do was give it a try. Playing a 12-foot instrument was no easy task– I think I’ll leave this job to the experts.
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