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.