Mont-PÃ¨lerin, Switzerland: The Country Manor & The Cable Car (1st of 6 parts)
Vevey, Switzerland: The Old Town, A Great Big Fork, & Charlie Chaplin (2nd of 6 Parts)
Vevey, Switzerland: The Market & The Museum ”“ 2 Photo Essays (3rd of 6 Parts)
Lausanne, Switzerland: Up The Hills & Fondue for Two (4th of 6 parts)
Geneva, Switzerland: The Smallest Big City In Europe (5th of 6 parts)
Fondue x Four: Food in Switzerland (Last of 6 parts)
Lausanne is hilly. It challenges my cardio strength that’s evidently weakened by the 3°C chill. Built on three hills that rise in tiers, Lausanne is the cultural and economic center of French-speaking Switzerland.
The heart of Lausanne’s Old Town called Vieille Ville, is Place St-FranÃ§ois. I see it as a crossroads of sorts where — if I stand in one place — I see various roads leading uphill, a glimpse of cars zipping by on the busy street, lots of people coming and going, and one grand church in the heart of it all, the Ã‰glise St-FranÃ§ois, a church of the Franciscan monastery that dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries. Every visitor to Lausanne inevitably walks through Place St-FranÃ§ois to the swanky rue de Bourg, the street for luxury and opulence.
As we stroll down ”“ er, up rue de Bourg, my Bin marvels at the old houses lining this street. A great fan of architecture and design, he pesters me to “… slow down, will ya!” Once again, I’m walking too fast for my companion’s comfort. I’m too busy immersing myself in the spirit of the city and drooling at the displays in the patisseries to pay much attention to my Bin’s musings of “… those beautiful shutters and old-style windows.”
Coming down from what I feel is a never-ending steep slope, we come across Place de la Palud, a market square and favorite meeting place. Towering above everything is City Hall, where the administrative headquarters and central archives of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were officially established in 1915. (Lausanne is the location of the IOC’s headquarters). A blindfolded statue of a woman looming over Place de Palud is significant. It’s the Fontaine de la Justice, an allegory for justice that was built in 1557.
Walking along, I tell my Bin, “I think we should visit the Notre-Dame Cathedral.”
“Isn’t the Notre Dame in Paris, hon?” he replies, his voice echoing the confusion on his face.
“No, love, there’s another Notre-Dame here.”
After leaving the Old Town behind, we begin walking on busier streets with lots more cars. Amazingly, the vehicles stop when they see pedestrians about to cross the road. Cool! Pedestrians have right-of-way here in Switzerland. The walk to the cathedral is full of memorable views, buildings mottled with sunlight, and as we get farther up, we can see the streets of rue de Bourg and the Place de la Palud which now look like specks from way up here.
The Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Lausanne is a fine example of Gothic architecture with its pointed arches, solid buttresses and decorated towers. It creates an intimidating backdrop against the sky, its spires stretching 246 feet into the sky. Restoration work is being done during our visit so we don’t go in but it’s an awesome sight to behold, nevertheless.
Our walk back to the Old Town is made easier (it’s all downhill!) and we chance upon a friendly local at a store we buy some stuff from who speaks some English (thank God!). When I ask where she eats fondue, she enthusiastically points us to Café Romand which is just on Place St-FranÃ§ois.
Fondue for Two
Turns out the place is an institution. I’m told that the Swiss come here from the time they’re in grade school all the way to retirement. The blue and white striped tablecloths and dark wood chairs hark back to a simpler time as does the giant, well-worn pepper mill and the smoky air. My Bin and I take to the place instantly.
A French menu doesn’t scare me so much since several culinary terms are still in French or have their basis in the language. And no food lover needs to translate “fondue” to know that it’s the dish to eat when in Switzerland. Among the traditional, feel-good Swiss food that Café Romand serves, my Bin and I decide on fondue moitié-moitié (“half-half,” a classic fondue of half Vacherin and half Fribourg cheeses), a plate of cold cuts (assiette jambon cuit ou salami), pork knuckles and rÃ¶sti (ROSH-tee), and because one can never have too much cheese, a portion of Raclette.
We’re practically giddy from the anticipation of having fondue in Switzerland, and it’s everything we hope it will be. Curly wisps of steam evaporate in the air as the hot fondue is served. Using the knives provided, we slice the day-old bread into manageable chunks and spear one into the divine depths of molten goldenness. I blow on the cheese-coated bread lest I want to burn my tongue, and when cool, slide it into my mouth.
The ethereal essence of a good white wine teases my nose and palate as the cheese oozes to both sides of my mouth. The bread, once hard and chewy, collapses upon itself at first bite, cotton balls pushing against my cheeks. The tastes are round and rich and mouth filling. Some cheese sticks to my teeth so I lick off the excess as well as my fork before spearing another bread chunk. My Bin is noticeably quiet, each of us drowning in our own succession of sensations. Good lord.
Cheese is cheese, but melted cheese tantalizes like nothing else can. Admittedly, after the magnificence that the fondue is, the Raclette is somewhat anticlimactic, especially with its lone potato swimming in the center. But the smooth sharpness of the cheese contrasts with the pickled gherkins, their saltiness provoking our appetites.
Though I’m sure the Swiss would disapprove, I discreetly drip some of the fondue onto the cold cuts that now recline lazily on a wayward slice of bread. Cheese makes everything taste better, just like butter.
As for the pork knuckles, I may have been indoctrinated by Old Swiss Inn, but this one is somewhat of a drag ”“ it’s pata tim without the sauce. The rÃ¶sti more than makes up for it however ”“ a grated potato pancake that’s outrageously crunchy outside with a moist, melting interior.
My Bin decides his dessert will be the meringue glacée chantilly, a bombe with a meringue shell piped with chantilly cream (sweetened whipped cream flavored with vanilla). I’m no big fan of meringue ”“ never have been ”“ but its crunchiness against the vanilla bean ice cream is startling.
Place Saint-FranÃ§ois, 2
0041 (0)21 312 63 75