Timeline: September 25th – 26th
Editor’s Note: Jessica again graces the blog with an excellent retelling of day or two in cheese and chocolate country. Enjoy.
What a day, what a day. It all started with a late checkout from our hotel in Lucerne. We had a snack breakfast in the Mann Parents room and took all of our luggage down to the cars. Kris and I took charge of the bikes and noted that my mom’s rear brakes seemed… completely useless. Turns out she has been making due with just her front brakes for a while now. We watched as the bikes were hoisted atop the Highlander and we all piled into our seats for the drive to Broc for a cheese tasting tour.
After a few hours, and one sandwich, we were in the heart of the Gruyère region of Switzerland. There were beautiful views in every direction of emerald green mountains speckled with huge-bellied cows, lakes swarming with swans, it was like driving through a moving postcard. Switzerland has captured our attention at this point.
The cheese tour (7 Swiss Francs) had a relaxed atmosphere and when we were given our tickets we were also given little pre sealed pouches with three Gruyère samples, aged 6, 8, and 12 months, respectively. There was a guided audio tour led by the voice of a cow named Daisy, and a sniffing station where you could take little whiffs of all the different grasses, herbs, and flowers that the cows eat in the region. Supposedly, you should also be able to taste the notes in the cheese. I was peckish so my 6-month cheese was already gone before we left the first part of the tour. After learning the basics of where the cows live and eat, we entered a large work area and were able to watch an employee as he went through a piece of the process of making the cheese rounds. He was at the point where he was cleaning most of the large vats that are used, but one was still full and churning a ton of milk for the first step on the way to cheese.
While fun, none of us were overwhelmed with the experience. Luckily, the woman at the front desk pointed us towards a chocolate tour not far off at one of the oldest/most profitable chocolate producers in Switzerland. Maison Cailler merged with Kohler and Nestle in 1929 and now creates delicious wonders such as Cailler Lait and Chocmel!
This wonderful place was a 10-minute drive from the creamery. 8 Swiss Francs apiece later, we were in for a ridiculous Disney-esque tour through the history and making of chocolate.
From the Aztecs and Quetzalcoatl, to Spain in the 1400’s, to the French and their religious reactions, and finally up to the present and the Swiss (who were the first to make it into a candy!)
At the completion of the tour we were able to sample a multitude of their offerings and of course purchased the logical amount of 10 candy bars for the 2 of us.
Sugar comas in sight we all hopped back in the cars and drove onward to our hotel in Bulle, the Best Western Hotel Rallye. Post-easy check-in into our beautiful, modern, super duper rooms, we headed out in search of some dinner that hopefully we could afford. We had been burned by the prices in Lucerne and were trying to avoid that again. All we knew was that we wanted Fondue.
We walked out the doors and across the street from our hotel is a cow patch, we turned left and walked through the town of Bulle a little before landing in the older section at a place, Au Fribourgeois, that we had found online (Google Search: “The best fondue in Bulle”) and reinforced by a positive review in Trip Advisor.
Once inside we took over the largest table available. The restaurant itself was a wood paneled shrine to cows and anything cow related.
Menus were handed out and everything was in French… Luckily I still remember a little and was able to get us through the meal with our waitress who did not speak a word of English. We ordered a lone cold meat plate and enough fondue to feed a midsize army. Some notes on Fondue:
- do get the wonderful cheese magic that is fondue
- maybe only get 4 peoples worth for 6 people, unless you want to feel like a cow yourself
- don’t worry about calories, or you will never have any fun
- do eat the whole pot
2 bottles of wine between the 6 of us later, I started to question whether that giant 3-quart pot of cheese had been 23 Euro for the whole thing or 23 per person… It didn’t seem like they would give us that much for such a low price but I was hopeful. Then we realized that this fondue was in fact super delicious and it didn’t matter in the least. We dipped bread cube after bread cube into our seemingly insurmountable pot of delicious cheese goo, and realized that we had done a pretty good job on it! After eating 99% of my bodyweight in cheese, dessert was briefly considered before noting that any more food and we would explode.
I forgot that Switzerland has a French speaking third so the fact that I made it through an entire meal as the sole interpreter with a woman who seemed disinterested in any efforts at English (which is fine, why should she? we are the visitors not her) was extremely satisfying. Home to the Best Western for a good night’s sleep and in the morning we were off to our last full day on vacation.
The morning of the 27th, Kris and I were starting to feel a little burnt out. Sightseeing non-stop for two weeks takes a lot out of you. We did a walking tour of Bulle (I took the lead on this) and saw many very exciting sights such as a big bull statue and a cool park… uhh, none of which I can now call to mind now because I am not a travel guide. We were able to convince the parents to spare us, and to take it easy on our last day.
We headed to the actual town of Gruyères, which is all cobblestone streets and cutesy shops. We walked the base of the castle but all agreed we had gotten our castle fill in Füssen and decided to get some hot chocolate instead.
While the parent’s moseyed about the town, looking in on the church and cemetery, Kris and I took up residence at the Viller Store where a very nice woman and I had another conversation in French about where I learned the language and the differences between Viller and Cailler Chocolate.
Viller, it turns out, is more nutty while Cailler is more caramelly because of the way they condense their milk before using it in the chocolate making process.
Hot Chocolate in our bellies we all stopped in at a few shops, one was a husband and wife who sold carved wooden toys. The woman explained a little more about the area to us including the differences between the regions and towns.
This was all well and good, except for the third time in less than 24 hours, the conversation was solely in French… my brain was starting to go numb and I needed a chocolate top up. So we headed back to the cars and ate one of our Cailler bars before hitting the road to Geneva.
Gruyere Cheese: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruy%C3%A8re_cheese
Maison Cailler: http://cailler.ch/en/maison-cailler/attraction/information/
Best Western Hotel Rallye Bulle: http://www.hotelrallye.ch/
Au Fribourgeois: http://www.cafe-restaurant-au-fribourgeois.ch/fr/
Gruyere Village: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruy%C3%A8res
Aging cheese, cheesy cows, chocolate and cheese, kissing chocolate cows. Jessica is very descriptive and clearly comfortable with her distinctive sense of humor. Switzerland is one of my favorite places, and Jessica infused it with life. Here’s to abundant cheese and chocolate to you, Jessica!