30 May 2007

And the Rain Came Down

This past weekend was a continous rain shower with a few breaks. As a result we didn't do as much around Cantons Vaud and Geneva as we had hoped, but they are close enough for additional trips when the weather is nicer.

And we did manage to see a fair amount from the car and by hopping out for explorations in between bouts of rain. Such as the many terraced vineyards the Montreux area is known for...

Montreux is on the shores of Lac Leman. (That's Lake Geneva in the English-speaking world and Genfersee in the German-speaking world.) It is best known as a resort town and as the host of an annual jazz festival. Sculptures of jazz musicians line the lakeshore near Miles Davis Hall.

On Saturday evening there was about a one hour break in the rain with a touch of sunshine, which we took advantage of by going for a walk and snapping some quick photos.

On Sunday morning we headed for Geneva. Since it was still raining, we decided we might as well take our time and drive the scenic route along the shoreline in France instead of the more direct highway. Fortunately we arrived in Geneva during another break in the constant rain.

We were greeted by the enormous water fountain that has become Geneva's most famous landmark.

After a long search for a well-hidden parking garage (could someone from Geneva please explain why ALL the street parking is for 30 minutes regardless of day of the week?), we first walked to Cathédrale St Pierre in the center of the old city.

It's most famous minister was John Calvin, although he was forced to leave after only a few years due to his Reformation Ways.

After a glance through the interior, we did the obligatory climb up the tower...

Leaving the cathedral, we walked along a side street and came upon La Maison Tavel, the oldest house in Geneva. It is now the city's museum. And admission is FREE! Woo hoo! Plus they had one of those views of European rooftops I love so much.

Right next to Maison Tavel is the Hôtel de Ville, where the First Geneva Convention was signed in 1864.

After a bit more walking we noticed the clouds returning and figured more rain was on the way. We were correct.

We decided to drive south until we found good weather and arrived at Lyon, France.

The second largest city in France (after Paris), Lyon was charming, cosmopolitan and full of life! Indeed, it reminded us of how lacking in diversity Switzerland is. It was wonderful to once again see multitudes of people from all backgrounds.

As we arrived late in the afternoon, we didn't have time to see much. And as we hadn't expected to go to France this weekend, we had not a lick of information about what the city had to offer. After a quick look at possible locations in the navigation system, we selected Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Mostly because it was near the top of the alphabetical list and it was the most likely to be open past 5:00 pm.

The navigation system led us up a steep, narrow winding road. At the same moment that we arrived at the cathedral, a car pulled out of a spot practically in front of its doors. Bonus!

As mass was taking place in the packed cathedral, we walked around the outside before quickly sneaking a peek inside. We noticed that mass was nearing an end and decided it might be wise to clear away from the area before the hordes began their departure.

On the way back down the hill we happened upon an ancient Roman ruin. The Théatres Romains de Fourvière is still used today for summer performances.

As it was already past 6 pm, we reluctantly left Lyon. But it is now on our list as a future destination. This is a city worth further explorations.

On Monday the dawn came with more rain. A quick look at the satellite photo online showed the rain extended across most of Europe. Therefore, attempting to drive out of it wasn't practical.

So we headed for Prangins and another of Switzerland's national museums.

As we were in no rush, we once again took the backroads. We were fortunate enough to come upon a small wine festival in the tiny town of Bursins. After a bit of wine tasting, we purchased a few bottles to take back to Zürich. I also found a beautiful teapot in a stall set up by the potter. She spoke no English and I speak not a word of French, but I can proudly state that we were able to make German work well enough!

We continued on to Chateau de Prangins, which houses the national museum for the French-speaking area of Switzerland.

It is very well organized, informative and interesting. Plus, everything is explained in French, German, Italian and English! (The Landesmuseum in Zürich could take some lessons from their "Little Sister.")

In addition to several rooms displaying various eras of life in the area...

They also had rooms with interesting artifacts such as these antique bicycles...

Well worth an afternoon visit, especially on such a cold and wet day.

The limitations on things to do as a result of the constant rain actually made it more of a relaxing weekend then we have had in a while. However, we do plan to go back another time to see more of what the area has to offer. Hopefully the weather will cooperate when we do.


Impossible Jane said...

Sorry about all that rain. We were washed out a few weeks ago and now we're finally getting sun. Better days are on the horizon.

I've been to La Maison Tavel. One of the few things to do in Geneva that doesn't cost alot of money.

Marcy said...

I feel compelled to speak up here and defend our little town of Geneva... perhaps it's not representative of the rest of Switzerland, but there's a HUGE amount of diversity here! I've met people from every corner of the world in my short time here.

Rain aside, it sounds like you had a great time exploring Swiss Romande and neighboring France. We need to do some driving tours some weekend, too....

Global Librarian said...

Ah yes, but please note that I said "multitudes of people."

No city in Switzerland is large enough to ever have multitudes.

I am definitely a Big City Girl. And Zürich is on the verge of being Too Small for me. It is redeemed by the fact that we can so easily travel to so many other places.