Guest post by friend and fellow traveler, Chris Sanders.
After a few tortuous days on the Tour de Mont Blanc (see my related post), my wife and I were looking for a place in which to relax and recover…and we wanted to stay in the region…it didn’t take me long to decide on the perfect place…”we’re going to Lausanne” I told Wendy.
Getting there and finding a hotel
Lausanne is nestled on the shore of Lake Geneva, about an hour by train from Geneva. The city is sort of like Nice in France – except its smaller, quieter, cleaner, more quaint, more sophisticated, and I could see myself living there…come to think of it, I guess its really nothing like Nice…except that both towns sort of slope downwards towards the water’s edge.
We didn’t book a hotel ahead of time – the prices were just too expensive online. Instead, upon arrival, we immediately found the Tourist Agency (adjacent to the station), where we booked a nice room at a clean little place called Hotel des Voyageurs http://www.voyageurs.ch/en/index.php. The hotel was more than adequate and it was situated off of a quiet and narrow street in the old part of the city – perfect actually. We were pleasantly surprised to find our room also had a balcony overlooking the small street – at night Wendy and I would have a few glasses of wine and watch people coming and going below us…
Out and about in Lausanne
The old part of Lausanne is great to explore on foot. There are several small cobble stone type streets to walk, and since the town is perched on a hillside, there are also plenty of ups and downs to navigate. We were treated to a large outdoor market one day we were there…the streets were so alive with locals strolling and shopping for fresh produce and antiques.
Another “must see” located in the old part of town is the city’s gothic Cathedral – Notre Dame. The church is located at one of the highest points in the city…as such, it is accessed by foot via a quite long and steep flight of stairs, some portions of which lie on the Camino de Santiago (see my related post). After an arduous 10 minute trek, we arrived to the top of the stairs. Off to the left hand side was the large front door to the Cathedral…in the other direction was a landing area overlooking impressive panoramic of the city – you could see all the way down to the lake!
Aside from the old part of town, another great aspect of Lausanne is the lake front, which was very nice indeed. A wide asphalt path runs parallel for miles and on good days, people walk about, rollerblade, and just sit on benches. Out on the lake, sailboats and rented paddle boats lazily sweep across the water…against the backdrop of steeply rising mountains of the opposite bank – it really is the perfect place to relax.
As if it needed more, the lakefront also boasts the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Museum (http://www.olympic.org/uk/passion/museum/index_uk.asp). Wendy and I visited the museum and actually watched some of the Beijing games (which were going on at the time of our visit). Among the many treasures on display in the museum is a large Olympic torch collection – its definitely worth a visit.
A day trip to Lavaux
After recuperating in Lausanne for a few days, Wendy and I decided to explore the nearby wine region of Lavaux – a region knows for stunning landscapes of steeply sloped vineyards that extend all the way down to the lake. It was easy to get to by train and there were several small villages to explore. We took a train to Vevey, where we then boarded a smaller “wine train” that passed through several small villages. We ended up in a small village called Cully, which was supposed to the an epi center of the region…unfortuntelyit was Monday and the place was empty and pretty much closed down. But all was not lost – we found a small cafe where we sampled a local white wine and asked the waiter what we might do to pass the time. His suggestion was a walk through the nearby vineyards, which we did over the course of about an hour – it was absolutely beautiful!! Wendy and I decided if we ever returned to the region, we would book into a countryside bed and breakfast so we could really take in the beauty of the region and have a full experience.
Incidentally, the Lavaux wine region was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1243. We were not surprised…
If you’ve been to Lausanne or the Lavaux region, please share your experiences and recommendations. We welcome your comments!