Our hotel in Montreux, Hotel Eden Palace Au Lac, was straight out of a Wes Anderson set (I felt), with its mango ice cream-colored carpets, the rooms equipped with inner and outer doors, and the thick wooden side table which looked like it used to house a retro radio with knobs and dials (since removed, leaving the table with unexplained holes). My suspicions were confirmed when I leafed through the hotel flyer and discovered it was built in the 1870s.
On the plus side it was conveniently located next to Lake Geneva, a short walk from the train station and a longer (but still easy) walk to Chillon Castle, a medieval château made famous by Lord Byron in his poem ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’ which he wrote after a visit to the castle back when it was still used as an actual prison.
According to the castle guide, he single-handedly kick-started tourism to the castle, which is now one of the most visited historical monuments in Switzerland. A true turista, Lord Byron also graffiti-ed his name on one of the columns in the castle dungeons. Unlike normal-person graffiti though, his is carefully preserved.
Our hotel was also located next to the town promenade where a statue of Freddie Mercury stands. From the plaque at the base, I found out that 1) he was born Farrokh Bulsara on the East African island of Zanzibar (!), 2) he had strong links to the town and acquired a lakeside studio here in 1978, and 3) Montreux was where he did his final work. I savored these new pieces of trivia and envied Freddie his daily view.
We had lunch with old friends whom we hadn’t caught up properly with during the wedding, walnut pesto and sticky four-cheese pizza and clams which were surprisingly good (and way better than what Hubby and I had in Nice). Afterward we had gelato outdoors along the lake. I can’t remember why but the conversation turned to babies. E said she was sure she didn’t want any, she couldn’t stand the fussiness. A said she was undecided. Both had urgent questions for me, as the sole mother in the group.
Did I eat fish during pregnancy? Yes, but I had to cut out sushi (which A found acceptable) and alcohol (this, she protested). Could you feed babies water? I said no.
I also told A I didn’t really like being pregnant (“You’re not helping!” said E, who wished for A to get started on the baby-making ASAP). I felt I had to explain so I started, “Don’t get me wrong…” “Hay naku, when someone starts with ‘don’t get me wrong’ that’s where I get concerned,” E said. I had to laugh.
I love the end result, of course. But admitting that one hates the process of getting there, the bloat and the bulge and the pounds and the heaviness and the way your body stretches to accommodate (but does not stretch politely back when it’s all over, how rude) — that is an unpopular opinion, it seems. What with the ‘glow’ I’m supposed to be experiencing and all (I call B.S. on that btw). I always feel the need to explain.
After our lunch Hubby and I hopped on the GoldenPass Panoramic to Zweisimmen, which after two more train changes would eventually see us in the Swiss Alps where we planned to spend a few days. The panoramic express was truly worth it — it was all rolling hills, chalets perched alongside said hills, snow-capped mountains, flowing canals, and cows standing on the slopes (how do they do that?!). The scenery was so achingly beautiful that at one point Hubby turned to me and said, “Ganito ba buong Switzerland?” in disbelief. Ugh. These Swiss lucked out.
The ride was around five hours long. We passed the time reading, gaping at the Sound-of-Music like fields zipping past, and having intelligent conversations like this (which I faithfully recorded):
Hubby: “Gaano kaya kataas yung clearing na yun?”
H: “Eh yung isang mountain na yun papunta sa isa?”
M: “Mas mataas.”
H: “Eh yung paakyat dun sa may ice?”
M: “Super taas.”
I also people-watched a bit. Next to us sat a trio of women, one a platinum blonde woman in her 30s, one with black hair streaked grey, and the third an older, smaller woman with thick, all-white curls (I will call her Little Old Lola a.k.a. LOL). LOL told the most stories — her voice full of energy and loud enough for me to hear (and listen to, had I understood French). All three ladies nursed a plastic glass of wine. LOL finished hers well before they got off at their stop.
I could get used to this. Travelling on trains subsisting on nothing but Vittel water and small croissants for weeks. When I’m as old as LOL, hopefully.