A Montreux Meander
Autumn in the Swiss Alps is an exceptional time. It’s a special
time in many places, but of all the countries I’ve lived this is in another league.
So I decided to go for what was intended as a mini-meander down to Montreux from our house in the mountains above. Downhill walking is a breeze right? Well, it is if your legs are used to it. Luckily I’ve been breaking mine in lately, providing days of hilarious hobbling around, much to the amusement of any spectators.
The first bit required me to be a virtual jaywalker, dodging emergency road works to secure the narrow road hugging the mountain before winter sets in. We have previous on landslides, so I get the sentiment. Big local drama, trust me!
Yet, where are we pedestrian newbies supposed to go? Clearly down one of the paths that curve through the woods, stealthy shortcuts for those in the know… Once I found one, I ditched the road and slipped into the camouflage of the canopy.
Instantly I was surrounded by a friendly fuzz of greenery, cusping golden and orange with the occasional fleck of red. Fallen leaves crunched underfoot and a scent of bonfire was in the air. Although it was a warm day, images of hats, scarves, red cheeks and open fires were conjured up. And Harry Potter for some reason. Not sure why. JK Rowling, how did you get so far into my head? (Disclaimer: I’m not one of those fans who slept outside shops to get the latest book. I did read the books and I watched the films. That was it, OK! And no, I don’t have a wand. Although secretly I would like one….)
I’m in awe of the details I notice when I walk rather being in a car. It’s like zooming in on Google Earth, but in microscopic detail with the opportunity to be really nosy and check out the minute features of what is usually a blur, dashing past while you’re (hopefully) keeping your eyes on the road.
You can see the patterns of people’s curtains, what plants they choose to surround themselves with and spot any gnarly garden gnomes that may be hiding in the undergrowth. That and so much more. (Disclaimer: No, I’m not a creepy stalker, just immensely curious).
The epic expanse of Lake Geneva (or Lac Leman as it’s called locally) spread like a silky sheet beneath me as I skipped down the road, the amber autumn light caressing everything into a Kodak moment. (Disclaimer: I’m not an affiliate of Kodak, nor do I use one of their cameras. I use my phone).
Scooping away down towards the lake were vineyards, covered in nets to protect the last of this year’s grapes from the beckoning beaks of birds on a scavenge. Every single grape is precious – that's how much the Swiss love their wine. Wonder why you might not have heard much about Swiss wine? The simple answer is that they drink it all. I fully approve and join in on their valiant efforts!
Sidling up to a church I drive past all the time, I discovered a hidden terrace offering panoramic views of the lake and my favourite mountain: The multi-summited Les Dents des Midi. From this space it felt like you just might touch divinity if really you tried, whatever that might mean to you personally. The energy of the space lent itself to lingering rather than loitering. Naturally I hung around for a while.
I don’t know what it is, but those peaks get me every time. I’m thrilled I that I can see them from my house, it makes my day, at least every day it’s clear enough to actually see them. It never gets old. Thankfully it’s cloudy sometimes so I can get some work done!
Dawdling on, down through the old town of Montreux I must have had a big smile of my face as people were smiling back at me wherever I looked. You know that feeling of an unknown joy, maybe shared, maybe not, shifting between you and the people you pass. Perhaps I had something on my face…. Who knows, but it was it was a sunny day and happiness was in the air.
I marvelled at the ornate streetlamps, straight out of a vintage film. They must be many decades, if not a century old and they somehow nudge a nostalgic place in my mind, calling me from sometime beyond when I was born.
Reaching the main drag of Montreux, I was baffled, as always, at the swanky vs slightly shabby juxtaposition of establishments. Here the ultra rich cavort in flash hotels on the Swiss Riviera alongside joints for the somewhat jaded. A statue of Freddie Mercury overlooks the lake, forever cast in a jubilant stance. This has become a shrine for fans and he’s usually adorned in flowers and various trinkets, some of which he most likely would have preferred not to be seen dead in. Excuse the pun.
In a shop, I watched a woman asking her dog its opinion on whatever item of clothing she was holding up. She seemed quite happy, the dog less impressed. After sharing a laugh and me owning up to speaking only “un peu Français”, the shop assistant launched into what I'm pretty sure were his observations on the multitude of nutters around town. Catching little but the gist, I must have been making the right noises as he kept on chatting. Maybe he just wanted someone to listen and I was quite happily lost in translation. Everyone wins, except for maybe the dog.
Now it was decision time: Whether to go along the lake and catch the historical funicular from Territet to Glion above my house or did I dare engage those courageous calves and walk all the way? Spurred on by the sunshine, I decided the only way was up. By foot.
A curious observation – I have been offered a lift by passing cars walking down the mountain more than once, but somehow for an uphill walker it's assumed that you’ve made your choice and you’re sticking to it. Yes, maybe so – but I have to admit that there were times I wished someone, anyone but a serial killer or a rapist, might have stopped to at least offer. If nothing else, I could have felt virtuous by declining...
Stopped in my tracks by a budding blister I decided to take a break half-way up through one of those covert cut-throughs. Heart pumping, blister bleeping red alert, I was absorbed into the universe of my ipod. I felt very much alive, yet totally unaware of the walker behind me wondering how she might get past this beetroot-faced thing blocking the path. Headphones revealed, all was understood and we exchanged a jovial “bonjour” before each going on our way.
It was with a feeling of huge satisfaction that I burst through the trees from another path straight into the drive of my house. Quite possibly I had ad-libbed a new short-cut. Either way, slightly delirious, I felt like I’d found Narnia and gratefully staggered the last few steps to my front door.