Wednesday, October 29, 2014

(More) Chocolate, Cheese, Churches, and a Château

The Château de Gruyères, Switzerland
When I first started writing about my trip to Switzerland with my Aunt Winkie, I mentioned that the four words in the title of this blog post really summed up my experience of Switzerland. Today's post really makes that clear. On our trip to Gruyère, we visited a dairy, a castle, two churches, and a chocolate factory. All on a beautiful, clear, sunny day.

We started by visiting a tiny artisanal dairy in the Gruyère region, but it had closed operations after La Poya, when all the cattle had headed to the lowlands, so all we did was take some pictures of the chickens and of this:

I really want one of those puffy-sleeved jackets.
I think they make my waist look smaller, don't you?
We instead went to the Gruyère factory, where we saw the modern methods for making massive quantities of Gruyère d'Alpage cheeses.

The milk received each morning is processed the same day in huge copper-lined vats. I read (and promptly forgot) a great deal about the process and the many, many kilos of Gruyère cheese made each year, how much milk each cow produces, and how many tons of grass it eats.

I do remember that the unique flavour of the cheese is a result of the specific plants eaten. I brought home a 2 kilo bag of shredded Gruyère d'Alpage cheeses with which we had an amazing fondue when I got back home. (I had worried that Customs would not let me through with the cheese, but there was no problem at all.)

Such an idyllic place.
From the factory, we went uphill to the Château de Gruyères. (In this case, the word Gruyères is plural because it means "of the Gruyère family," whereas the cheese is of the Gruyère region. At least, that is my understanding.)

Perched on a hill, as all good castles are (and, honestly, most structures in Switzerland), the castle and its surrounding village and grounds are unbelievably picturesque.

It's as if the "Charm" fairy came through with her magic wand and sprinkled prettiness all over everything. I took a few (Hah!) pictures.

This door shows the emblem of la grue, which is a crane. Legend has it that the first king (ruler?) of the estate captured a live crane and chose it as his family emblem. You will see the crane all over the place.

This is the entrance to one of the village churches. I would like to live under that porch.

Inside the church.
This banner is displayed inside the church and shows the crane in its typical posture.

For God and homeland: onward, crane!*
Just before entering the castle grounds, Pat, Winkie, and I stopped for a photo opp.

This is one of my favourite pictures of Winkie, ever.
The castle itself is worth the visit. Starting in the courtyard and the ground floor, the rooms are all very rustic and sparsely furnished (just enough to indicate what the principal function would be).

Would you look at that floor!

These rooms would seemingly have been the servants' rooms. But as we climbed the stairs, the finishes and furnishings became more and more elaborate.

Note the curlicue motif on the walls -- reminiscent of the crane's tail feathers.
Some of it was more attractive than others. The green in this music room made me eager to move on.

The castle serves also as an art gallery. I was not fond of the modern art, but the older pieces . . .

"Jeune fille au bouquet de fleurs" by Francis (né François) Furet, a Swiss artist
who lived and painted at the time this was painted, 1870
The laundress, by Auguste Baud-Bovy, 1865

Wouldn't this make a charming child's room?
Reminds me of Beatrix Potter.
Paintings by Francis Furet and Jules Crosnier, circa 1900. 
Even the ceilings were decorated!

This mermaid-cherub-reindeer was in the hunting room.
More of the crane-like curlicues.
The crane in all its glory. The gift shop had a large silk scarf with this emblem.
But I had to share this one.

"Dude, check out my feathers! Do not you covet my red and white feathers?"
"Nay, mine leige, I neither covet nor admire thy feathers, thou saucy, dismal-dreaming flirt-gill!"**
"I pray you, do not fall in love with me, For I am falser than vows made in wine."***
Heading back downstairs, via covered balconies in the inner courtyard, we went back to the medieval, rustic world.

This was likely a defensive perch as the window faced out of the castle, towards the village.
In case the village church were not enough, there was also a small chapel in the castle grounds.

This one is no longer used on a regular basis, judging from the disrepair of its frescoes.

The castle also had ramparts . . .

To the left, they looked out over the surrounding valley.
To the right, they look out onto the manicured gardens.

View from the rampart into one of the towers.

View through the window of the previous picture.
We rejoined Pat (who having been through the castle before, opted to wander the village some more) and wandered through the village again, to choose a restaurant for lunch.
Another crane.
We found a lovely place with a terrace out back, and I ate Rösti -- which were nothing like what I had tried before. Instead of the glorified hashed brown I'd expected, I got this:

It was far more than I could eat, but that Gruyère cheese on top and the grilled/roasted potatoes underneath were delicious. 
On our way out of the restaurant, I glanced down and saw this litter of kittens basking in the sun.

The day was not done yet, however! We went back into town and toured the Cailler chocolate factory. This is a close-up of the crushed cocoa beans.

They look like jewels. Black-and-brown, yummy jewels.
The smell of the entire place was like a narcotic to me. And then we went to the outlet shop.

This is just the entrance to the shop.
Talk about a kid in a candy shop! I bought a LOT of chocolate. A lot. Enough that I still have a secret, dwindling stash.

And then we went home!

* My translation.
** Insult courtesy of the Shakespeare Insult Kit.
*** From As You Like It. Found on Top 10 Shakespearean Pick-up Lines


  1. oh my goodness.... it's like stepping into an actual fairy tale that place. it's beautiful. and all that attention to detail. we just don't take time to do such things anymore. and then, chocolate. a perfect fairy tale ending! :)

    1. It is! I hadn't thought of it that way, but it really was like a fairy tale. Nowadays the labour costs for building something like that would just be incredible.


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