It is hard to ignore a place that has been graced by the star-studded type for centuries on end. A place that gave inspiration to the likes of Coco Chanel, Prince, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Audrey Hepburn and Charlie Chaplin, for example. Feeding their minds, it's where they needed to when creating their next masterpieces.
Vaud has also been visited by troves of celebrities on their quest for relaxation and leisure, along with the Russian oligarchs, New York bankers and maharajahs who chose this place to spend their summer vacations.
A beautiful view of the lake: Gregoire Chappuis
So what is it that attracts these fortunate folk to the shores of Lake Geneva, in the Swiss canton of Vaud? Apart from, of course, its fairytale backdrop of snow-capped Alps and the ever-serene crystal clear waters of Lake Geneva, aka Lac Leman to the locals.
Having been blessed enough to visit this divine part of the globe, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is all in the quest for one thing, that being, the utter pleasure which always evolves from the pursuit of ‘lakeside leisure’.
Whether it be cruising along crystal waters, enjoying magical views whilst eating the finest of gastronomy, opening French doors to the sounds of rowers stroking the lake’s silky sheath, driving along its shores, or indulging in chocolate. It is with no doubt that Vaud and her beautiful lake, guarantee a vacation to remember.
Slow travel – a time to ponder
A slow traveller's paradise, relaxing on-board one of the CGN’s belle époque paddle steamers - an elegant fleet of side-wheel paddleboats built in the earlier part of the 19th century - is quite frankly, slow travel at its finest. Surrounded by polished wood, brass and by-gone glamour, an afternoon can easily be spent whiling away the hours whilst enjoying a five course meal as you immerse yourself in Vaud’s magical surroundings, sailing from one side of the lake to the other.
The prettiest part is the course from Lausanne to Montreux, where the lakeshore is designated to a UNESCO World Heritage site for one special reason, its vineyard. Known as Lavaux, and dating back to the 11th century, every possible square inch supports cascading terraces of vines, 10,000 to be exact. It’s the perfect backdrop to sail out to Chateau de Chillon, Switzerland’s grandest of castles. It’s also the perfect setting to enjoy one of Vaud’s traditional dishes, fillet de perch. A delicious fish caught straight from the lake you are sailing upon.
Lavaux vineyard with a lake and mountain view courtesy of www.diapo.ch
Capital of Gastronomy
One thing for sure is that Vaud is the land of pleasurable food and the gastronomy here is, nothing short of, impeccable. In fact, it’s a not to be missed destination for foodies - demonstrated by the record number of restaurants awarded stars, toques, flowers and other marks of quality. Add to this, pristine views of mirrored waters stretching as far as the eye can see, and you could be mistaken for believing this was indeed heaven on earth.
A must experience is the gastronomy from Anne-Sophie Pic, the first woman to be voted chef of the year by the Michelin guide, and who supervises proceedings at the gourmet restaurant of the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel. Furthermore, Edgard Bovier, who serves his food in the sumptuous setting of the Lausanne Palace & Spa, one of Coco Chanel’s old haunts.
Further down the lake in the town, Vevey, La Veranda is the pick. With its terrace overlooking the harbour, the lake and the majestic Swiss and French Alps, this Michelin-starred brasserie has views so impressive you will struggle to concentrate on your food.
Grand Tour road trip
There is something so very riveting in stepping into your Bond-worthy car, wind in your hair, sun on your back whilst navigating the twists and turns of a gloriously landscaped road. Voted 2017 Favourite Road Trip Destination, Vaud’s vistas of terraced vineyards, Alps and ancient castles all flanked by scenes of a ‘never-ending’ lake, are nothing short of mesmerising to say the least.
What’s a lakeside escape, without chocolate and Charlie!?
Further down the lake, closer to Vaud’s other major town, Lausanne, lies Vevey, host to the fascinating Chaplin’s World, a museum set up in the late actor’s lakeside mansion, where he spent the last 25 years of his life. Milk chocolate was also first discovered in Vevey, in 1875. Subsequently, the town is a chocolate lover's paradise, offering chocolate workshops, tastings and all things associated with that delicious russet hued powder. For those needing that extra bit of choco-lovin hit, visitors can spend the day onboard The Chocolate Train, which brings visitors to the legendary Maison Cailler Nestlé in Broc, where the secrets of chocolate making are revealed.
A scenic drive in a Morgan: Gregoire Chappuis
Wonderful parties such as Venetian nights, fancy-dress balls, concerts and other grand social occasions were held in the various palace hotels that line the lake’s shores. Guests came from all over the world to spend their summer vacations in the pretty palaces that now hold many a fascinating story.
Montreux courtesy of TesaPhotography
Offering views of Évian-les-Bains, France, across the water, guests never tire of that Lac Leman high as they relax on their balconies overlooking the various goings-on of aquatic pleasures below.
Highly recommended is the Fairmont Montreux Palace, poised strategically opposite the highly acclaimed annual Montreux Jazz Festival. The festival has been seducing the biggest names in music since its inauguration including: Quincy Jones, Santana, BB King, David Bowie and Prince to name a few.
Furthermore the Beau Rivage Palace is a beauty in her own right. Indeed Coco Chanel, King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan – just some of her illustrious guests – thought so too.
Nestled in between is the Grand Hotel du Lac, a 5-star superior hotel offering ultramodern comfort in a superb Art Nouveau setting. Fully refurbished in 2006 under the direction of Pierre-Yves Rochon, the Oriental Lounge is a must-visit.
And so with the finest of gastronomy, majestic alpine surroundings and the best of slow travel, there is indeed no other place to discover that pursuit of ‘lakeside leisure’. Vaud, you wonderous gem – you have it all!
For further information: http://lake-geneva-region.ch