Vineyards enroute to Vevey

Lausanne to Vevey

Day 1 of the pilgrimage called for a walk from Lausanne to Vevey. Total distance covered: 14.9 miles. Temperature: low to mid-50s, with continuous rain showers.

Although still jet-lagged, we managed to sleep intermittently until 9 a.m. It had rained heavily throughout the night and we were told to prepare for a rainy Day 1.

That didn’t bother us at all. We made cups of tea and coffee, ate the leftover fondue sandwiches from the night before, slipped plastic covers over the backpacks, returned the hotel key, and set off. The thing I really love about today’s walk is how little navigation was required. It was remarkably straightforward. Find Lake Geneva (also referred to as Lac Léman), and hug it on your right side for the next 12 miles.

What a FABULOUS way to start the trip! Walking alongside the lake really gives you a sense of appreciation for the sheer size of Switzerland’s largest body of water. Lake Geneva/Lac Léman is a whopping 45 miles long, with a surface area of 224 square miles. I was stunned at just how close the pedestrian path takes you to the water. There are times your feet are literally inches above the waterline.

Because there are portions of the path built on rocks or beach pebbles, certain parts can ONLY be navigated on foot. Who would have thought figs, bamboo, or hibiscus could grow in Switzerland? And yet these plants seemed to be thriving. We passed palatial summer mansions, beautifully maintained children’s playgrounds, and multiple harbors full of motor boats and kayaks. It is no surprise that the lake is a popular area for recreation.

Lake Geneva must also be a pleasant place to take a dip in. Every so often, we’d pass areas designated solely for swimmers, which were neatly marked with buoys. Despite the rain, two swimmers walked to a pier and eased down into the water without so much as a shiver. I immediately regretted not having brought my swimsuit. It is truly marvelous how clean and clear that lake water is. Every time we looked, the waters were so transparent you could see aquatic plant life and fish underneath. There were no lifeguards: swimmers who entered the lake did so at their own risk.

During the first few miles, there were quite a few joggers out taking advantage of the cooler weather. The foot traffic became increasingly sparse the further we went. Finally, there was a stretch of several miles during which Mom and I were the only ones out there.

Vineyards Galore

One of the best aspects of the walk is that it passes by and through local vineyards. These vineyards stretch an incredible 18 miles along the lake. Cistercian monks first began constructing the stone walls along the sunny slopes by Lake Geneva in the 12th century.

I loved the ancient buildings and terraces set against tidy rows of green vines. Several vines already contained luscious looking bunches of purple and green grapes. The beauty of the Lavaux Terraces is absolutely STUNNING. If I ever come back to Switzerland, I will forgo Geneva and Lausanne and head directly to this serene area.

Small villages between Lausanne and Vevey banded together to celebrate their cultural legacy as a premier wine-growing region. Signage simply asked that we respect the properties, not pick any product ourselves, and follow any established trails. What’s to prevent the unscrupulous from running off with bunches of grapes? Nothing. The growers are trusting in a person’s honor.

Mom and I are curious to try a local wine. After all, we’re on a pilgrimage AND Cistercian monks were involved. We were absolutely enthralled by the vineyards and all the loveliness we saw.

What did we NOT see? Open restaurants! During the planning phase of the trip, we had thought the Swiss summer tourism season would still be in full swing, PARTICULARLY along the waterfront. That premise proved to be false. Thankfully, for the first several miles, neither of us was hungry. (Granted, we had consumed all kinds of delicious calories at dinner the night before in the form of cheese-and-beer coated bread.) The fondue had proven itself the perfect mix of fats and carbohydrates. Some 18 hours later, we still felt full and energetic.

Of course, when hunger pangs suddenly hit around Mile 10, they hit hard. In the absence of any food sources, the gummy bears Mom had brought that I’d sneered at suddenly became my new best friends. I had imagined us eating nothing but Swiss food on the pilgrimage. With so many closed shops, I’m ashamed I regressed back to the level of a two year old.

Please pass me the gummy bears!

Route to Vevey

Although Google maps was working like a charm, and the route we were following was generally very well established, there was one small section that took us mere feet from train tracks, with no physical separation. Eventually, we reached a point where it made more sense to CROSS the double train tracks, and cut up on a trail through a vineyard to access a main road. We were both apprehensive about crossing the tracks and either dying or being arrested. We could see no other option.

“Do you want to put a hand on the track and test for vibrations?” Mom asked.

No, I did not!

I never knew my mom was such a daredevil. Part of me honestly thought she’d be horrified and want us to backtrack till we found a designated crossing path. But she scurried across those tracks with me like a teenager.

Once safely on the main road, we took it all the way to Vevey.

If you have a sweet tooth, then you’ll be pleased to find Vevey is home to Nestle headquarters. The gargantuan-sized building was one of the first things we saw upon arrival at the city limits. The chocolate giant even has its own avenue named after it.

By now we were quasi-delirious with hunger and did a Google search for sit-down restaurants open at 5 p.m. We chose a Syrian/Lebanese restaurant with a high customer ranking. At that early hour, we had the entire place to ourselves. The dinner was full of vegetables and meats and absolutely marvelous!!! We were also delighted to see small bottles of local wine for sale. We would later learn that, because of the area’s reputation for vineyards, one of the requirements for operating the restaurant was that local wine MUST be available.

As it so happens, Syrian/Lebanese food + Swiss wine is an incredibly delectable combination. 😊

Thoughts Before Bed

Swiss drivers have got to be some of the most considerate in the world. Seriously, they are SO NICE and give both walkers and bikers ample time and space to cross. The crosswalks and bike lanes are beautifully marked.

One of my biggest concerns had been access to public toilets. Happily, if you hug the pedestrian path you’ll come across a WC every few miles, most often near a marina or playground. We’ve been saving a bundle by staying at hotels located further from the city center. Tonight’s lodging has us at a small but immaculate room.

The man who checked us in was super kind and offered recommendations on places to see and things to try. When we get to St. Maurice, he recommends searching for a hidden chapel nestled some 600 steps into a rock cliff.

We were super excited when he gave our pilgrim passports their first stamps.

So far, so good! Exhausted, but excited to see what Day 2 brings. 😊 Next stop in Switzerland: Aigle.

Costs

Breakfast: 0

Lunch: 0

Snacks: Celery sticks and Gummy bears + 4 wild blackberries

Dinner (per person): 17 CHF ($19.33)

1 shared bottle local wine: 21 CHF ($23.76)

Shared hotel room one mile from Vevey city center $102

By Katie Cerezo

Thank you so much for visiting. 😊 I have always loved traveling, and my legs are my primary means of transportation. It's a beautiful world, and I'm eager to explore it…one step at a time.

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