August 23, 2022

The promenade next to Lake Geneva.


My hair is grey, but not with years.

-“The Prisoner of Chillion,” by Lord Byron


Today, we went down the train racks toward Geneva a little further to a town named Montreux.  Montreux is a city of about 26,000 citizens that lies on the northeastern shore of Lake Geneva.  There is evidence the area was occupied since the late bronze age and an important wine-growing region since the 12th century.  It has been a popular tourist spot since the 19th century with grand hotels attracting the rich and famous from all over Europe and the Americas.  It has seen the likes of David Bowie, Noel Coward, Zelda Fitzgerald, Freddy Mercury, Vladimir Nabokov, Igor Stravinsky, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovski, and Shania Twain, just to name a few.  Queen Victoria was a fan of Montreux, visited here several times, and Freddy Mercury has a larger than life bronze statue on the promenade erected in his honor.  We’re here just to explore around and see what the place has to show us.

We get off the train and walk through winding streets, surrounded by buildings from the “Belle époque,” the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.  They often have roofs and windows of a unique design that have an ornate flair that gives the city, in my mind, an old and cherished feeling of pride-of-history and culture.  It’s like I’m walking through reflections of the past, footprints left of what’s gone by.  I seem to be surrounded by lingering shadows of things, things that once marked a daily life, now gone and largely forgotten.  There’s a sense of continuity that runs from what happened centuries ago to my walking the streets in the present day.

We walk down to the lakeside where there is a promenade running right next to the shore of Lake Geneva.  It is well manicured, sporting flower beds, beautiful trees and shrubbery, and seems to be a popular place to go for a stroll.  Soon, our path takes us to where the yearly jazz festival is being prepared – we will miss it by a week.  In addition to auditoriums, there are food stalls of every imaginable flavor and ethnicity – Indian, Brazilian, American, English and, of course, French, German, Italian and Swiss.  Soon we are entering downtown and we stop to have a tasty lunch at a French restaurant.

After eating, we retrace our steps and walk on to Chateau de Chillion, some seven miles or so away.  Its origins and distant history are buried in the darkness of the middle-ages.  A castle was built there in the twelfth century that survives to today and is a popular tourist spot.  Among other things, it served as a prison and in 1880, Lord Byron wrote the poem, “The Prisoner of Chillion,” about an unnamed man who was imprisoned there.  In the bowels of the place, once used to house prisoners, there is a plaque honoring Byron.  The castle was also the domicile of various dukes and other royalty and there are a number of interesting old artifacts left behind.

On the way to the chateau, I lag a little behind my brother, his son and grandson.  I’m feeling unusually tired and I keep getting distracted by the dogs leading their charges down the path.  I say hello to them, but they ignore me and continue on with their doggie business.  After a bit, I notice a young woman, in her thirties, I would guess, setting her cellphone on a rock so she can get a selfie.  “Est-ce que je peux vous aider? (Can I help you?),” I ask.  She says yes and hands me her phone.  After a few pictures, we talk a little about where we’re from, and so on.  It turns out she’s from Sao Paolo, Brazil.  I speak a little Portuguese, she speaks a little English, but I explain I need to practice my French, so we walk on and chat in that language.  She is going to the castle as well and we have a very pleasant conversation as we visit there.  I don’t understand everything that’s said, but enough to get by, and I’m pleased she can understand my probably horrible accent.  All too soon, we bid each other enchanté and part ways.  My family and I have to catch the train.

Soon, we’re back in Haute Nendaz, have a nice dinner, and go to bed.  I’m starting to feel like I have a low-grade temperature, a lingering irritation in my sinuses, and very tired.  I figure I’m coming down with a cold as the symptoms are so minimal.

As I fall asleep, I think of Waldo and how much he would have liked the walk down the promenade next to the lake.  He’s fine, but I really wish I could have brought him here with me.

But at least I don’t have to explain to him about my trying to cheat with the other dogs I met today.


In the dungeon of Chateau de Chillion. I must have been here before — there’s a plaque that says so!

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