Victor Hugo, Lord Byron and Voltaire loved this place. So did Charlie Chaplin and Coco Chanel — the late mademoiselle is buried in the Bois-de-Vaux Cemetery in Lausanne, a fetching lakeside city on the riviera and our home for 4 nights.
At le hubby’s insistence, I booked a two-bedroom apartment via AirBnB.
The hotel snob in me has always scoffed at the idea of staying in someone’s home while on vacation. Like dude, I’ve waited six months for this vacation; I should be living in a suite, waited on by butlers and feasting on caviar, man, not sleeping on somebody’s used sheets and pillows or have pictures of someone’s 90-year-old grandpa staring down at me during sexy time. #soweird
Go big or go home, man.
Well, I should’ve stuck to that mantra because this whole AirBnB thing was a disaster. Apart from the funny-smelling sheets and photographs of strangers leering at you from the bedroom walls, there’s the noise. The *GREAT* reviews of this particular property mentioned nothing about a main street out front. Are AirBnB customers mostly deaf or what? Because how do they get any shuteye when their ears are constantly assaulted by a cacophony of vehicle noise that doesn’t dissipate even after midnight?
I’m now a firm believer that AirBnB is where holidays and good times go to DIE. #neveragain
Awkward accommodation aside, we did have a brilliant time in this part of Switzerland.
The Swiss Riviera, while pretty, is not exactly the French or Italian riviera #NoshitSherlock. It’s got none of the glitzy vibe that it’s neighbors possess or handsome Italian men strutting around in teeny spandex — not that I was looking. The capital city of Geneva, I heard, was akin to a staid accountant on the verge of retirement.
Lausanne may be compact, but it’s easily the best base on the Riviera.
The old town looks like any old town in Switzerland, except that it’s not a place to don your five-inch stilettos. Why? According to the tourism website, the city is built on three hills — though I reckon they’re more like mountains.
The folks living here have also probably never seen Asians before because everywhere we went, women were gushing over what a handsome lil’ chap Mika was, even when he was on his worst behavior.
We loved spending our days in and around the lakefront. Ouchy (or Oo-SHEE in French) — which is what I’m feeling after the ankle-breaking stroll in town — is the name for the long, child-friendly lakeside promenade that’s interspersed with picnic areas, fountains, playgrounds and overpriced restaurants designed to rip tourists a big one.
There are two worthwhile sights in Lausanne itself. Set in a sprawling lakeside garden, the Olympic Museum is filled with engaging, lively exhibits even though I have zero sportsmanship (I always feel like thwacking someone whenever I lose at something) and the only sport I excel at is eating.
The museum chronicles the colorful history of the modern Olympics, after it was founded in 1896 by Pierre de Coubertin, who is also buried alongside Chanel in Bois-de-Vaux. I don’t know what it is about Lausanne that makes people go, wow, what an ace place to be buried. What’s wrong with Paris? The catacombs are good fun. Plus you’ll always have plenty of company.
The second attraction is the Collection de l’Art Brut, a thought-provoking, well-curated series of artworks produced by prisoners or patients of mental institutions.
You start out feeling sorry for these loonies but after staring slack-jawed at their amazing compositions, it dawns upon you that maybe they should be feeling sorry for a talentless dickwad like you instead.
If you come out of Art Brut feeling all depressed like I did, you can always drown your sorrows in a (very well-priced) glass of Chasselas.
Just a few minutes out of Lausanne is the UNESCO-heritage site of Lavaux, a sun-kissed series of terraced vineyards where the grape of this particular variety is produced since THE 11TH CENTURY (by monks, no less). You can even hike or, better yet, take a petit train tour through the vineyards because the area is estimated to be roughly the size of 800 football fields. Yeah, that is a lot of wine; one cannot possibly have a bad time here unless you get so drunk you fall into the lake, then you might’ve overdid it, you drunkard. Go home.
Further along is one of the Riviera’s most famous sight, the Chateau de Chillon, a wonderfully-preserved medieval castle built on a rocky outcrop on the edge of Lake Geneva.
My favorite part of the castle is the dungeon, where Lord Byron’s graffiti is preserved behind glass on a pillar…
…and the 800-year old squat toilets — sans cubicles so you and your friends can have a roundtable meeting while taking a dump together. The sewage, of course, would’ve ended up in Lake Geneva.
Despite being used as a sewer in ancient times, the shimmering lake itself looked really inviting so we stripped down to our swimmers, thinking how lovely the waters must be at this time of the year since there are a handful of people splashing around. Little did we know these people were nut jobs and they probably stuck their heads in refrigerators for fun. Because it was so cold you could fart snowflakes.
But anything for a picture.