A couple of weekends ago we had the most stereotypically Swiss day of our lives. If there was a cliché to be had in this land, we found it. And it all began with a cheese pilgrimage.
Zoe and I started off by driving across to the French part of Switzerland to pay homage to one of this land's greatest exports – cheese. As we left the autobahn and began to head past fields and fields of udderly magnificent milk cows, we knew we were on the right track. Eventually, we arrived at our destination in glorious sunshine.
Gruyere (above) is a small, quaint town. It's barely even noticeable from the roads below, but is known around the world for one very good reason. Cheese.
After a long drive we were ready for lunch and, of course, there was only one thing on the menu (quite literally at some restaurants). We were reminded that the country we live in is a cultural fondue pot when the waitress only spoke French, but we muddled through and successfully ordered ourselves mountains of cheese. Despite temperatures approaching thirty degrees, Zoë went for the fondue platter, while I had the daily special – cheese with a side of cheese. It was fantastic.
In a bid to fend off the onset of some kind of lactose-induce coma, we then headed up the town's cobbled high street to the chateaux that offers stunning views of the valley below. I was so full from lunch that this was a challenge. When Zoë wanted to take photos with said view of backdrop I couldn't even bring myself to say "cheese".
Randomly, there are also other attractions in Gruyere that have absolutely nothing to do with dairy produce. The H.R. Giger museum is a tribute to the Swiss artist of that name, who is a 'le grand Fromage' when it comes to science fiction art. Monsieur Giger won an Oscar for his work on the set of 1980s sci-fi classic Alien.
Given the sun was out, we decided not to spend the afternoon strolling around a dark recreation of a dystopian intergalactic film set, but apparently it's quite interesting if you like that sort of thing. Directly across the street is an Alien-themed bar, with a crazy interior and drinks served only on flying saucers (the second part may not be true).
As we were intent on having a Swiss day, we also passed on the chance to go to the next attraction in the street – the Tibet Museum. Set up by an organisation called the Alain Bordier Foundation it houses what I'm told is an impressive collection of Tibetan art. Why it's in a medieval town in the middle of Switzerland, I'm afraid, despite my best googling efforts, I cannot tell you.
So, where was the day to go after this high point? Well, there's perhaps only one thing the Swiss do as well as cheese. And that's chocolate.
A short drive away from Gruyere is the small town of Broc, which is the location of the Cailler chocolate factory.
Check back for the next post to hear all about our Willy Wonka style tour, and how one man's mad idea led to Switzerland becoming the home of milk chocolate.
Mike Stuart moved to Switzerland in 2013 when his better half Zoë landed a job in Zurich.