The Promenade Fleuri and Chateau Chillon With a Dog in Montreux Switzerland
Some of you may not know this but, Mom has a degree in Hotel Management. Oh yeah … and from Switzerland no less. Hotel Institute Montreux (HIM) to be precise! So when we decided to go to Switzerland and spend a little time near Geneva and visit Lausanne we had to tack on an afternoon in Montreux to revisit Mom’s old “college days haunt”.
I think it was weird for Mom to have her “boys” (that would be Dad and me by the way) in a place where she had lived over 20 years ago. And a tad freaked out that it had been 20 years already. Not sure why this freaked her out but … it did. Humans … you are so … odd.
Anyway we got off the train in Montreux, walked down the street and found Mom’s old school …I think Mom was a little stunned at the changes at HIM too.
But some things never change. Like where Mom had worked at a Grand Hotel or where we had our lunch … Mom’s “night club” of choice in the day was above.
And the part that Mom loved most, the Promenade Fleuri, where she would escape from her studies. Where her LONG love affair with walks really began.Because you can walk from Montreux all the way to Chateau Chillon on the water’s edge. It’s GORGEOUS!
But first … a tiny bit of history!
Montreux has been around in some form for … like… ever. It was a really important trading town during Roman times because it was located exactly where the road to Gaul and Italy split. Then the area became a little more famous for wine than trade. Yep! The swiss make a pretty decent wine!
Then there was a bunch of mess during the whole Burgundy wars … yep – interesting connection to our trip to Burgundy there… and things were calm-ish until the whole Reformation made the region an attractive haven for Huguenots from Italy, who brought their artisanal skills and set up workshops and businesses. The beginning of woodworking, clocks and cheese people!
No European history lesson is complete without the predictable mention of Napoleon. Yep, he “liberated” the region from the Bernese. It is debatable how badly the region wanted to be liberated. Depends on who you speak to.
Finally, in the 19th century, the tourist industry became THE major commercial outlet, with the grand hotels of Montreux attracting the rich and cultured from Europe and America. The area quickly became known as “The Pearl Of the Swiss Riviera”. And of course this led to the famous Hotel Management Schools in the region and to Mom’s reason for being there 20 years ago.
Montreux is also known for music. Most notably the Jazz Festival. A lovely July event that has been around since 1967. The festival was originally held at the old Montreux Casino, which burned down in December 1971 during Frank Zappa‘s performance (as referenced in “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple). Now there is a convention Centre for the music and a new unassuming Casino.
Lots of famous musicians have come to Montreux, for the festival and the recording studio. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Santana… the list goes ON and ON.
But Freddie Mercury is the name that stands out the most. In November 1995 (after he had passed) Queen released Made in Heaven, an album featuring Freddie Mercury’s previously unreleased final recordings from 1991as well as outtakes from previous years and reworked versions of solo works by the surviving members. The album cover features the Freddie Mercury statue that overlooks Lake Geneva in… you guessed it… Montreux! Why is there a statue here? Because this is where he had written and recorded his last songs at Mountain Studios.
I went to pay my respects. I am always moved by those that have passed too soon. Fan or no … it just doesn’t seem right. And the statue is the perfect place to start your stroll to Chateau Chillon, on what may be one of the world’s most beautiful promenades: The Lake side Promenade Fleuri.
The name says it all. Fleuri means “in Bloom” and it’s not just a name. It’s true. This walk is absolutely mandatory. With or without a canine and even on a rainy day. Because the views are breathtaking.
Each section has a different colour scheme. Ten miles of pathways and sheltered bays, bordered by exotic flower beds and palm trees. You’ll find a few places to stop. Hidden nooks, or little coffee stops – complete with small dog play mates.
The mountains, the lake … the castle. More than 300,000 guests visit the Chateau Chillon every year. You can view wall paintings dating back to the 14th century, the subterranean vaults, parade halls and the bedroom preserved in its original form that dates all the way back to Bernese rule. The entire complex consists of 25 buildings and three courtyards protected by two walls and is not … pet friendly. So you will either have to do a hand off or … miss it.
What is open to canines is a most beautiful outer courtyard and garden. A hand-off would be easy to do. Relaxing and picturesque. Find a nice quiet spot along the lake, and just breath in the clean air and serenity.
There is something about this castle on a rock in a lake. You can feel the hundreds of years of ships passing by on Lake Geneva. You can sense how important this route was. Why control of this castle was paramount. Chillon belonged to the Counts of Savoy from the 12th to the 16th century and then … Bern conquered this “water castle” and then … well Napoleon and blah blah blah. It’s gorgeous. It’s all you need to know.
Make sure to check out Byron’s graffiti on the wall in the cells – where he go the inspiration for his Poem The Prisoner of Chillon.
If by now you are totally pooped, you can take a bus or train back right from the Castles front gates or … you can re-trace your steps and walk back.
The view beckoned and that is what we did. Arriving in Montreux exhausted. But happy. Where we hoped back on a train returning to Geneva.
In review: The promenade between Montreux and Chateau Chillon may well be one of the world’s most beautiful. Although very long, it is also flat and thus you will find all ages strolling along its various sections. From the area near Montreux proper with its fancy hotels, cafés and restaurants, to the more residential area and beautiful homes… to the vineyards and ultimately your reward: Chateau Chillon. A must if you are ever near Lake Geneva. (for more photos visit my FB page album!)