Day 13 - Meiringen to Charmey via Gruyeres and the Callier Chocolate Factory

9:25 PM AirplaneFoodCritic 0 Comments

Beautiful Swiss cow.

Even though it was a bit warm, we slept with the patio doors closed and the curtains tightly sealed so we could get some dark, quiet sleep. The Hubs is getting tired of getting up early. I think that two weeks is the max he can handle in Europe. I have always known that a vacation traveling in Europe is not necessarily a relaxing one. It isn't like laying on the beach in Hawaii with no responsibilities. In Hawaii you can eat any time of the day. You are using the same currency you use at home. You can read the menu because it is in English usually. The people around you speak English. You don't have anywhere to go or to be. You don't have a time schedule in Hawaiian vacations. At least I don't. The reason I come to Europe is because I want to be in a different culture so I am not complaining in any way that they don't speak English. I am just saying that it is a little stressful. I am not complaining about anything in fact, I am just stating that traveling through Europe is stressful at times but it is absolutely worth it for the wonderful experiences. That is why I keep coming back. But after a while of being on the road for a couple weeks it can wear on you. We are not eating very healthy. There is a lot of heavy, rich food. It makes sense though, eating out every meal no matter where you are will take it's toll on you. This trip we have been visiting the Coop a lot which is the main grocery store. We are in Switzerland so it is still pretty expensive but we can get fruits, veggies and little salads.

So we woke up at the usual times and had breakfast perched on the top of the world again. The chickens were cooing, the cows were ringing their bells. It is a perfect day out. After breakfast we took a walk down the tiny road that leads to a little town called Fulcheren. If we continued further down the road we would end up in those caves where we turned the car around the other day. No people .... or very very few people....were out this morning. The air is so fresh, so crisp. The sky is super blue, there were a few puffy clouds and some puffy persistent contrails. I breathed in the perfect, invigorating, rejuvenating Swiss Alpine air. We walked arm in arm down the narrow road. We passed a glorious garden with a little woman gardening. There were flowers, Swiss chard, lettuce, and other veggies. A perfect garden. We walked on. On either side of the road the grass is green and bright. Above that the hills full of trees are just beginning to turn color for the fall. The forest greens are sprinkled with yellows and oranges. Above those hills the stone and snow covered Alps provided the backdrop. The fields are dotted with cows and perfect chalets. The chalets are dark wood and white stucco. Every single windowsill had geraniums just exploding all over the place. The main color used is red which contrasts with the dark wood and white of the houses but there are also pink and white geraniums. I admire how well the residents keep their window boxes. Perhaps they don't do anything at all and geraniums just love the Swiss air as much as I do.
Me and some Swiss cows.

We continued along the road and as we rounded a curve we came upon our favorite chalet. This is the house that when we first saw three years ago we both just stopped and said "This is the house I want to live in!". I love when we do stuff like that at the same time. We did that in Florence when we were walking along and passed an artist on the sidewalk. We both saw the art and it stopped us in our tracks. When that happens we just know we have to have it. The same thing happened in Paris and we bought a painting. No, we did not buy the chalet, but we both fell in love with it at the same time. We admired it again and then walked a bit further as the road took us down the hillside a bit. I wanted to see some cows. We could hear them as we hiked along but I had yet to see any near the roadside. Five years ago when I first walked this road I saw all these sweet brown cows with big eyelashes and big, bright, brown eyes. When I approached the cows they would come up to the fence near me and dance. It made me crazy happy. I wanted to pet some cows today. We came across a couple herds on either side of the road. The got up and walked with us as we moved down the road. I got close to a couple. They didn't quite dance but they let me scratch them on the head between the horns. I don't know why the  cows in Switzerland are so much cuter than in the US. I think they are just happier first of all. They have endless tender, fresh, abundant grass and wildflowers to eat first of all. They have tons of exercise. They don't just stand there, miserable in their own shit. The Swiss cows are clean, soft, healthy and gentle looking. There are Holstein looking cows and other cow breeds that we have in California and the US but there is one breed that I think is only here in Switzerland. It is a velvety light brown cow with those amazing, long eyelashes I love so much. They have big whiskers that wiggle when they chew their cud. They are nimble and move around a lot. Like I said, they dance when I walk up to them. It seems that the animals are all treated so much better over here than in the US. Makes me sad for the American farm animals.
Some views on our morning walk.

We had to get on the road so we have time to get to the chocolate factory later before we arrive at our hotel so I had to tear myself away from the hike. We said our goodbyes to the Swiss cows and traced our steps back to the hotel. They had the darnedest time figuring out our bill which was comical because it is so straight forward. We had dinner and drinks and a room for two nights. It took three people to look at all the receipts. They finally got the right price and it was actually $20 less than I was originally quoted so I was very happy. It cost a bit more than we had wanted to spend on this grip but it was worth it to splurge to stay with such a spectacular view. We hopped in the car and drove to the next region.

This next region is called Fribourg. It is a French speaking canton known mostly for it's cheese. The town we are staying in is called Charmey but we passed through it first to go to the town of Broc. There isn't that much in Broc to see except for one important thing: The Callier and Nestle chocolate factory! Sure, a few years ago we already had done this tour but it isn't something that you forget! We got a tour as soon as we got there. Last time we had to wait and wait in big lines and crowds in order to get in an English tour. This time we were part of a four person group. The tour is so fun. It is like a Disneyland ride. You start by walking into a giant elevator that lowers you a bit which reminds me of the Haunted House. Then you walk out into a fake jungle. A booming, disembodied voice explains where the cocoa bean plant comes from and it's religious uses. Then a door opens and you walk into the hull of a ship heading for Europe. At first, chocolate was not used with sugar, if you can believe that. In the 1700's and 1800's they drank it before, during and after sex. The caffeine and endorphins gave them a good buzz apparently. Not too different from now. Of course, the church decided for a bit that it was not Godly and they banned it. But it was too yummy so it was unbanned. Oh, religion! Did you know that a cup of hot chocolate was Marie Antoinette's choice for a last meal before she was executed? Interesting stuff!
Chocolate Factory in Broc, Switzerland

Then the tour went into how milk chocolate was invented by Mr Nestle who had a baby formula recipe. That recipe helped make the milk stay in the chocolate and milk chocolate was born right here in Switzerland! There were a few other men involved in the making of this chocolate brand. Together they managed to keep it all afloat during the stock market crash in the 20's. At the end of the Disneyland like part of the tour they show us the raw materials that go into the modern chocolate. We get to touch and taste the cocoa beans, nibs, butter, sugar, vanilla, almonds and hazelnuts. We got to walk along a functioning chocolate conveyor belt and then eat the chocolate right after it gets wrapped up in it's wrapper. Then we enter the tasting room. The last time we were here, a few years ago, they had almost 40 different types of chocolate samples to try. I ate all but one because I don't like coffee beans in my chocolate. This time there were only about 10 to try. I still tried them all. We took some fun souvenir photos and exited through the gift shop. We went crazy buying chocolate for everyone watching our pets and for our friends and family. We also got ourselves some chocolate of course.

From Broc it was only a few minute drive to the darling town of Gruyeres. Gruyeres is a medieval town built on the top of a hill and surrounded by ramparts. There are no cars allowed in the tiny cobblestoned town. Probably the most famous Swiss cheese is Gruyeres cheese. It is the main one used in fondue usually. The town smelled strongly of cheese and it was wonderful. We walked straight through the town and up to the castle at the other end that is owned by the late HR Geiger. We had already visited the Geiger Museum when we were here last but we wanted to see if we could get anything at the gift shop. Most of the stuff was over $5000 so we bought what we could afford as a gift for a friend who is an Alien fan and left. We shopped our way back to the beginning of town where our car was parked. We got a water bottle with a big Swiss flag on it. I have been looking for a sports bottle the whole trip but they are so so expensive! I got a really big one so I felt it was justified. Plus, things seemed to be a tiny bit more affordable in this town for some reason. Hubs got his mom a couple really cool birthday presents. I bought my aunt a birthday prezzie too.
Is there something behind me? At the Giger Museum, Gruyeres, Switzerland

It was late in the day and time to check into our hotel in Charmey so we drove the 15 or so minutes back to the town. Our hotel, Hotel L'Etoile, is in the dead center of town. The reason we are staying here is because tomorrow, September 26th, 2015, is the celebration called Desaples.

Desalpes happens once a year when the cows come down the mountain after spending the summer high up in the upper Alps where the grass is tender. The best cheese and creams are made from the milk the cows produce when they are up in this area so it is important that they make the trek every year up there. Once the winter begins to creep up, the cows and farmers must come back down the hill. This is a time of celebration because the farmers get to meet back up with their families. This is also the best time to celebrate the great tasting dairy products that have been created. When the cows and farmers come down, they are led in a long, day long parade. The cows are all decked out in flowers and massive cow bells. The farmers are dressed up as well in a traditional shirt and sometimes lederhosen. Our hotel has a front row view of this parade and the corresponding celebration. This will be my first time attending Desalpes and I don't know what to expect exactly. I am very excited. Time for some good rest.

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