Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Chocolate and Cheese in Gruyère, Switzerland

Cows in Gruyère, Switzerland
Gruyère cows enjoying their lunch

Switzerland is the land of chocolate and cheese. Nowhere is this more evident than Gruyère, home to Cailler chocolate and, of course, Gruyère cheese. It's also full of rolling hills, snow-capped mountains, quaint villages and medieval castles. Cows roam the countryside and their tinkling bells fill the air. A day in idyllic Gruyère is quintessentially Swiss and one we try to share with all our visitors.

Getting to Gruyère from Zurich is fairly easy - two and a half hours by train with two changes, the first in Fribourg and second in Bulle. The trains run once per hour. With an early start, there will be plenty of time to explore!

Gruyère, Switzerland
Gruyère, town and castle
Gruyère Castle, Switzerland
Gruyère Castle

Begin with a visit to the town of Gruyère and the Gruyère Castle. Follow signs for the short uphill walk from the train station (or catch the local bus). In town are cute shops fully of kitschy Swiss souvenirs and plenty of restaurants for lunch - or bring a picnic to enjoy on the castle grounds, like we did.

Gruyère Castle, Switzerland
Jamie exploring Gruyère Castle
Picnic Lunch at Gruyère Castle, Switzerland
Picnic lunch with a view at Gruyère Castle
After your stroll through town and lunch, head back downhill to La Maison du Gruyère. For a 7chf entry fee, you will learn how Gruyère cheese is made, watch the process in action and taste three varieties. 

La Maison du Gruyère, Switzerland
Cheesemaking at la Maison du Gruyère
Hop back on the train for a short ride to Broc-Fabrique. Take a deep breath when you arrive at the station - can you smell the chocolate? It's a short walk from the station to Maison Cailler.

Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory, Broc Fabrique, Gruyère, Switzerland
Jamie and me before eating too much chocolate.

The 9chf tour covers the history of chocolate and Cailler, information about how and where Cailler sources its raw ingredients and an overview of the manufacturing process. All in English (among other languages). Best of all, it ends in....

Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory, Broc Fabrique, Gruyère, Switzerland
...a buffet of chocolate.
I always leave with a stomachache. Well-worth it. Before you go, stop into the cafe for coffee or hot chocolate and stock up on discount candy bars. Or pop into the Nestle (the parent company of Cailler) shop by the train station for snacks on the train ride home. 
Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory, Broc Fabrique, Gruyère, Switzerland
May 2015 visit with Julie - so much colder than May 2016!
If there's time, I highly recommend hopping off the train in Bern for a stroll through town and a quick dinner. Bern isn't often on people's Swiss itinerary, but its Altstadt is probably my favorite of the larger Swiss cities. 
Bern, Switzerland
Altstadt in Bern
Have you been to Gruyère? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Celebrating Sechseläuten in Zürich, Switzerland

Sechseläuten, or in proper Züridüütsch (the Swiss-German dialect in Zurich), Sächsilüüte, is Zurich's spring festival.Sechseläuten, or in proper Züridüütsch (the Swiss-German dialect in Zurich), Sächsilüüte, is Zünfte, historical guilds, parade through Zurich to Sechseläutenplatz, where the Böögg, an effigy of a snowman, is burned on top of a large pyre.
Zurich's spring festival. Each year, on the third Monday of April, members of Zurich's

How the Böögg burns predicts the quality of the coming summer. Its head is loaded with explosives and, the quicker the Böögg blows its head off, the nicer our summer will be. Last year's explosion at 20 min. 39 sec. indicated a mediocre summer ahead. Luckily for us, the Böögg was wrong and the summer of 2015 was gloriously sunny and warm.

What will be 2016's prediction? Watch the live stream of the parades and burning of the Böögg. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. CET here

Until then, check out my photos from last year's celebration!

London, United Kingdom

Sleachmour Adventures: How we spent 6 days in London, saw the queen at Trooping the Colours and 2for1 sight-seeing options

It's a dreary, rainy day, typical of early spring in Zurich, and I can think of no better way to fight the gloom than recapping more of our summer 2015 adventures. Let's begin with London.

Sleachmour Adventures: How we spent 6 days in London, saw the queen at Trooping the Colours and 2for1 sight-seeing options
HRH at Trooping the Colour
The joy and ease of traveling where they speak English! An expat dream holiday.

Last June, we enjoyed five nights and six days of big-city, English-speaking fun. London is chock-full of interesting things to see and do, tasty restaurants, kitschy pubs, impressive architecture, fantastic theater and interesting museums. We were overwhelmed by possibilities and wore down the soles of our shoes trying to squeeze in every last bit. Here's what we did and how we attempted to keep ourselves from blowing all our money in this pricey city.

The Highlights

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Celebrating Fasnacht in Basel, Switzerland

Sleachmour Adventures, Basel Fasnacht

It's Fasnacht in Switzerland! Late January through February, Protestant areas of the country celebrate the pre-Lenten festival season known as Fasnacht (the Swiss-German version of Carnival). Parades of costumed children, grotesquely-masked adults and "Cliques" of piccolos and drums parade through streets in towns large and small, passing out candy and dumping loads of paper confetti.

Morgenstreigh, photo courtesy of
Morgenstreich, photo courtesy of
The best and largest of the many celebrations is in Basel. It begins with the Morgenstreich, "without light," parade, at 4 a.m. on the Monday following Ash Wednesday. Every light in the city is turned off for the parade of glowing floats and lanterns. Fasnacht continues for 72 hours, during which parades and festivities fill the Basel Altstadt. After Morgenstreich, there are two more "official" Fasnacht parades, or Corteges. Last year, the Sleachmours took the 40 minute train from Zurich to Basel for Monday afternoon's parade.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Summer 2015 > Summer 2014

Matterhorn Panorama, Sleachmour Adventures
Can you spot the famous mountain?
Chopfab beer in Altstadt Zurich, Sleachmour Adventures
Beers in Altstadt Zurich
I have fallen far, far behind on blogging. It's been over two months since my last post and I owe updates on half a dozen trips: Dijon, London, Amsterdam, Budapest, Lausanne, Milan.... Plus, we have visits with Matt's mom and my friend Julie to share! I will get to them soon, I promise. I have the best excuse for the delay: it has been the most gorgeous summer here in Switzerland. Last summer was cool and rain soaked. This summer has been the polar opposite, gloriously full of warm, sunny days. We've been soaking up every bit, swimming in lakes and rivers, climbing mountains, learning new hobbies and trying desperately to keep our non-air conditioned apartment cool. The last month was the hottest on record here in Zurich, with highs in the 90s for about half of the days and 80s for the rest. It's been hot! Despite the lack of AC, I really haven't minded. It feels a bit like home (but with less humidity than central Ohio, thank god). Here's a peek into how we've spent our second summer in Switzerland.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Oktoberfest! A Weekend in Munich, Germany Via Innsbruck, Austria

In 2015, friends from home joined us in crossing a major item off the travel bucket list: Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. While it would make sense for the festival to take place in October, it actually begins in mid-September and runs only through the first weekend in Oktober. Six million people visit Oktoberfest every year, so it's no surprise that Munich is PACKED. Hotels are expensive and sell out quickly. Trains are full. We were WAY behind when we began planning our trip in July, but we were lucky. Guided by great advice from Matt's German co-workers, we planned a pretty awesome and inexpensive trip to Munich, via Innsbruck, Austria..

Innsbruck, Austria
Innsbruck, Austria
Beautiful Innsbruck
Innsbruck is a three and a half hour train ride from Zurich and a great mid-point stop on the way to Munich. It is also much less expensive, especially during Oktoberfest. We left Zurich on a Saturday, early morning train, which allowed us to spend an almost full day exploring. Since our time was limited, we skipped the panoramic views from the Nordkette cable car and funicular and Olympic ski jumps in favor of wandering around the Altstadt (Old Town), sampling local liquors, eating tasty food and hanging out at an outdoor music festival. 
Culinarium in Innsbruck Austria
Austrian brandy tasting at Culinarium in Altstadt Innsbruck

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Scotland, Islay and Whisky. Lots of Whisky.

Last September my brother spent time in London for work and suggested we meet him in Scotland for a stay on the Isle of Islay and visits to some of his favorite whisky distilleries. Matt and I like whisky (although neither of us were knowledgeable enough to know Islay), so we said, "Sure!" And began planning one of my favorite trips to date. Here's how we did Scotland.

Laphroaig Distillery at sunset, Islay, Scotland
Laphroaig Distillery, Islay
Matt & I flew in and out of Edinburgh from Basel, Switzerland on EasyJet - easy and inexpensive. Joe met us there. While there is public transport in the major cities,  renting a car from Edinburgh airport was the easiest way for us to get around the Scottish countryside. We stayed the first night in Glasgow, drove to the Islay, stayed three nights on the Island then drove back for a final night in Edinburgh before flights home.