Day 2 of the pilgrimage took us from Vevey to Aigle. Total distance covered: 15.8 miles. Temperature: mid-50s, with occasional drizzle.
Much to our frustration, both of us were wide awake from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. We couldn’t understand our insomnia, given that we’d been well and truly tuckered out yesterday after 14+ miles with 17 pounds of weight each. We watched some Swiss television and gave each other foot and scalp massages to ease the stiffness. No luck. We were both groggy by the time we left the hotel at 10 a.m. in search of food and hiking poles.
Success on that front! We are now the proud owners of spiffy new hiking poles, which Mom insisted on paying for, saying they were my retirement gift. (When I commissioned as an officer 20 years ago, she gave me a bike. Just as then, these walking sticks were a lovely gift. Thank you, Mom!)
We have also taken a strong liking to Migros, Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain. Thankfully, we’d gotten the inside scoop the night before on where to shop. We purchased pastries, yoghurt, sliced meat, cheese, cookies, and chocolates. That store carries so many foods I’m eager to try (especially their selection of pastries and cheeses)! It’s a good thing our backpacks can only hold so much. Otherwise we’d have loaded ourselves down like pack mules.
As an aside, it’s interesting how common hiking poles and walking sticks seem to be in Switzerland. We saw many people who were non-hikers using them to get around. I’m curious to know whether that’s cultural, a personal choice, or due to necessity. In any case, we saw far more walking canes than we did wheelchairs.
It wasn’t until 11:30 a.m. that we began hiking in earnest. Once again, Google Maps had us finding Lake Geneva/Lac Léman and staying close to the shoreline.
Hello, Swiss Riviera!
I really like the Swiss Riviera! It’s got a delightful quirky charm to it. Where else can you find a 26 foot fork sculpture in the lake? What other region boasts such loving tributes to Charlie Chapman and Freddie Mercury?
Both artists loved the serenity of the area so much that they spent years living here. A bronze homage to Freddie Mercury’s statue is on a pedestrian path by the lake, and it continues to receive a lot of love from hardcore Queen fans.
If you want peace, come to Montreux.Freddie Mercury
The Swiss Riviera certainly deserves its name and reputation. By God, it’s magnificent! Colorful and aromatic flowers line miles of lakefront path. In addition to impeccable botanical artistry, there are beautiful sculptures both by and in honor of artists. It’s THE place to go for a stroll. And whether it was because tourist season had tapered off, or because it was a weekday afternoon, we had much of it to ourselves.
Our final sight on Lac Léman was the Château de Chillon in Veytaux. It’s a mere two miles from Montreux. From a distance, the castle doesn’t look particularly impressive. In fairness, the gray medieval structure is competing against colorful modern palatial buildings and showy luxury hotels. However, the closer you get to the ancient castle, the more imposing it becomes and the more you appreciate its design. The castle was constructed atop a rocky limestone island, which means it is one of the few castles to have a NATURAL built-in moat. From its strategic geographic location on the lake, the Counts of Savoy grew wealthy imposing taxes on passersby using the lake or crossing via the Alps.
It was a little bittersweet seeing the castle. It meant that we were very close to bidding farewell to Lac Léman, and cutting up towards our next destination: Aigle.
A Tough 7 Mile Trek
The next few hours and seven miles were PAINFUL! Perhaps our physical conditioning was lacking a bit, but we were still stiff and sore from the previous day. We had gotten perhaps four hours of sleep and our packs felt twice as heavy as the day before. Mom amused me by padding her shoulders with hiking socks to give herself a little extracushion. Thank God for the hiking poles!
The miles seemed to drag. I felt immense affection and respect for Mom when I asked how her legs were feeling.
“Super toned,” she replied brightly, with a megawatt smile.
We laughed over her answer. It’s great to have someone positive when you yourself are feeling angsty. Every time I turned around she’d flash a big smile or give a thumbs up gesture.
One of the low points for me was when the sign for Aigle had us following an expressway…something we couldn’t do. Our Google Maps workaround was to go to the charming rural residential village of Rennaz and attempt to link back up with main road when it became safer. There were a few despairing moments when we thought the roads were just too busy, and about 200 meters during which we were walking directly against oncoming traffic with no safety shoulder.
To our intense relief, we suddenly beheld a rough trail cutting through fields that was perhaps 10 feet wide. Once we got on that, all was well. We both remarked over how drastically and abruptly the landscape had changed. From lakefront beauty…to a brief foray alongside gas stations, supermarkets, and fast food joints…and now miles of corn fields and pasture. Yes, corn!
It rocked my world to discover that corn grows so extravagantly in Switzerland.
There was a lot of charm in walking that narrow country road alongside woods, rich farmland, and horses. It’s a multi-use road shared by cyclists and cars, so it is definitely NOT a place for putting your headset on. We found a few wild blackberry patches and enjoyed a light snack off of them. We also rewarded ourselves every mile with one chocolate piece from the Toblerone bar.
I had purchased the Toblerone because I have fond memories of eating the chocolate bar as a youngster. There was recently some controversy about the chocolate no longer being “Swiss enough” to feature the Matterhorn on its packaging. Regardless of whether it’s still Swiss, the chocolate bar cave us a welcome jolt at the right time.
Our most pressing concern was getting to Aigle and checking into the AirBnB before the sun set.
Arrival in Aigle
Aigle, French for “Eagle”, is a lovely small town of about six square miles at the foot of the Swiss Alps. Because it’s at the foot of the Alps – elevation 1320 feet – we’ve had ample time today to look at the mountains and imagine just how physical the upcoming hike over the St. Bernard Pass will be. We’re both a little nervous.
Tonight we’re staying in the beautifully decorated apartment of a nice young Swiss man. The room he gave us is twice the size of the hotels rooms we’ve stayed at the last two nights. Even more than the room size, it was his generous offer to let us use his washing machine and dryer that endeared him to us. After two days of washing our clothes in the sink and shower, it’s such a treat to have machines do the work!
We’re experiencing strange symptoms today. We’re tired, but have a tough time sleeping; burning tons of calories, but not really interested about eating. Having no energy to go out for dinner, we’ve stayed in the AirBnB room and polished off the last of the food we’d bought at Migros. We’ll need to re-stock tomorrow.
It’s been a busy but very satisfying day! Only Day 2, but it feels like we’ve been in Switzerland much longer. Here’s looking forward to what tomorrow brings.
Next stop: Saint-Maurice.
AirBnB room in Aigle: $102
Migros supermarket run for breakfast and lunch (yoghurt, chocolate, salami, pastries): $16.22