Montreux: Scotland on Lake Geneva

Last Tuesday was looking to be foggy and soggy, but my parents and I stuck with our plan to visit Montreux, Switzerland, to check out Château de Chillon and the city’s famous jazz festival. We took a late morning train around Lake Geneva and arrived in French-speaking Montreux an hour later, greeted by the patter of raindrops on the train windows.

After some initial trouble navigating the bus system — I led my parents onto a bus going the wrong direction and then, once we found the correct bus, spent several minutes scavenging our bags and pockets for enough francs to feed the coin-only ticket machine — we made it to the château and were happy to find that the wet weather had kept away the crowds. We spent the next few hours exploring the nearly 50 rooms and courtyards outlined in the pamphlet provided by the ticket office, happily sheltered from the rain still falling outside.

Even if you’re not a history buff, I’d recommend a visit: The three of us were so engrossed in the exhibits and architecture we accidentally skipped lunch, which, believe me, isn’t something I do regularly 🙂 The château was made famous by Lord Byron’s poem “The Prisoner of Chillon,” so don’t miss his name carved onto a pillar in the dungeon, though it may or may not have been done by Byron himself (a bit of controversy there). The visit culminates with a steep climb up some tricky steps to the keep (tower) of the château, which I imagine would be much less fun on a crowded day.

After we had our fill of the château, we hopped back on the bus — this time with change in hand thanks to a friendly cashier — and ate at a yummy but extremely overpriced pizzeria close to the train station (hello, 5.50 CHF Cokes). By the time we finished, the rain had stopped, so we walked along the Montreux Jazz Festival boardwalk to peruse the food stalls and — most importantly — help my father purchase a festival t-shirt. Originally we had planned to spend the whole evening listening to the free music in the park, with Gui joining us after work, but the ground was so saturated we ended up only staying to watch one band and then headed back to Geneva. Lucky for us, the group — Macaô —  was awesome (worth noting that the festival isn’t actually limited to jazz; Macaô is of the folk/rock variety). We really enjoyed the set, despite understanding very little because most of the songs were in French. Check them out!

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