Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Swiss Riviera

Most of French-speaking Switzerland is so appealing because it barely registers on the package tour circuit. You can swap a bus full of Japanese tourists shopping for cuckoo clocks in Lucerne for a hillside blooming of narcissi or a wine village with spell-binding views and a deep blue-green gleam along Lake Leman.

Make your first glimpse of the Swiss Riviera, a playground for the rich and famous, from the window of the Panoramic train as it descends from the snow-capped Alps upon French-style farmhouses adorned with terraced vineyards just beside you and Lake Leman.

Lake Leman possesses such grace with it's calm azure waters and graceful swans patrolling under the medieval Chillon Castle. However, Chillon's history is no fairytale. During Switzerland’s witchcraft purges, dozens of women were tortured here while many others were incarcerated. Lord Byron, who visited in 1816, wrote an epic poem about Francois Bonivard, the prisoner chained in the dungeons of Chillon.

It's quite easy to understand why once you catch a glimpse of the ambling Quai des Fleurs between the neighboring towns and villages you will never want to leave its beauty. You’d never tire of the ever changing panorama of lakes, alpine pinnacles, and twinkling villages. Best of all, within half-an-hour you can be high in the mountainous Alps.

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