Cheese and chocolate!

Trip Start Sep 27, 2012
Trip End Oct 12, 2012

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Flag of Switzerland  , Vaud,
Thursday, October 4, 2012

After my rave about Yvoire yesterday, it was going to be a hard act to follow! Gruyeres, however, came a close second, mainly because there were more flowers in Yvoire. Today's trip was a package tour, the only one I have done; it was a bit indulgent, but all organized with lots of time for free exploration.  Just the right thing for my last official day of sight seeing!  The Chocolate Train is another Golden Pass line trip, with the little train heading up above the lake, into the mountains, then turning back on itself to get to Gruyeres.  That meant I was facing backwards for the first part and forward for the second!

Although the main train station is below our apartment, I only realized a couple of days ago that the lines winds around behind us, so today on the train I looked for, and found our place. I could have just about touched the grape vine on the back fence - that would explain why the trains feel and sound as if they are coming through the bedroom at night! My ear putty is saving me - it really works. When the lady checked the tickets as we set off, she looked at the man next to me, and then said to me, 'tout seule', 'all alone', and suddenly I felt a bit lonely, because beauty is for sharing.  God is good, however, and when we reached Gruyeres I noticed an Indonesian family. As I came past them they were taking photos, so I asked them in Indonesian if I could take one of them all.  They smiled and nodded, then there was that characteristic Indonesian squeal with the realization of what I had said. They became my companions for part of the day and the elderly mother held on to my arm just as the ibu-ibu used to do when we lived there.  She wanted a photo with me, and I did some rudimentary translation for her, although her daughter's English was good.  She is here studying hospitality and her family is visiting. My relational side was warmed and I reflected on God's special care when we need it.

The trip started with a visit to the Gruyere cheese factory, which was fascinating. When I saw the amount of milk needed to make cheese, it made me think about the footprint of dairy products! A cow eats 100kg of grass and drinks 85 litres of water every day and produces 25 litres of milk on average. It takes 12 litres of that milk to make one kg of Gruyere cheese. We then had a bus trip into the village, with its mandatory castle, church and square.  I am not tired of castles, but there is a certain sameness to the turrets, beams, ramparts and so on. The distinctive of this one was the floors - the usual cobbles, but again all the stones were laid with the thin side up, and there were some beautiful patterns. I just cannot imagine how you live there and walk on them all day and night!  The castle goes back to the 11th century, and the name comes from 'grue', which means crane, also reflected in its heraldry. There was a music room with a 19th century piano and other beautiful instruments. The little chapel is beautiful and was renovated in 1480...

It was time for lunch and the Rampart restaurant was calling me.  Just wonderful food!  I chose the soup so that I would have room for dessert, and it was a heavenly vegetable and bean soup with Gruyere cheese and croutons and really hit my craving for vegetables.  It was time to have what apparently you have to have in Gruyeres (before you think I am spelling inconsistently the village has an s and the region and thus the adjective doesn' really needed to know that.) my serving of meringues and double Gruyere cream was like pavlova without the fruit and an incredible mixture of smooth and crunchy.  You will be glad to know that I only used about a third of the bowl of thick cream that came with it. It was about that time that I remembered that we were going on to the chocolate factory.  Oh dear.

Maison Cailler is in Broc and was an unbelievable experience.  I was slightly disappointed to find that Cailler is partnered with Nestle, whom I boycotted in the 70's for their unethical promotion of baby formula in the third world, but today I put aside my social responsibility for a little while.  The main names in Swiss chocolate history are Koehler, Peter and Cailler and the presentation of the history from the first discovery of cacao was unforgettable. The Chocolate Centre of Excellence takes visitors very seriously and we were all duly divided into language groups and sent off through the dramatic and fascinating display, with flashing lights, moving displays, ingredients to smell and doors opening automatically. It led, of course, to the demonstration of a chocolate conveyor belt, which led, of course, to the free chocolates!  There were about a dozen trays and I could only try half of them before I had enough. They were all sublime.

And so to the enormous shop and time to make difficult decisions about what to buy and take home as family presents. The train that took us down the mountain from Broc fairly rolled down with the cumulative cheese and chocolate consumption of all the passengers.  It was so much fun and a great way to end my touring, as the conference starts tomorrow. I am already missing poring over the pamphlets and researching train times on the internet!

All I can say is that this part of Switzerland is incredibly beautiful and overflowing with good things.  The glacial alluvium has created rich soil and there is plenty of rain, so everything flourishes. People are very friendly and most know enough English. Meanwhile other parts of the world struggle and suffer.  I have just heard the 4am ABC news from Victoria on my iPad and was both delighted and depressed to hear the West Papuan situation lead the news for almost the first time.  The Australian government should be ashamed of itself - it is not new knowledge that we have trained the detachment 88 troops that are killing and terrorizing the Papuans. Meanwhile I travel and eat chocolate. It is disturbing.
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