We started our journey of Switzerland walking and "wining" our way through the more urbane French-speaking region of Lake Geneva. In a well planned and orchestrated itinerary, we moved easily through the countryside from Geneva, to Lausanne and Montreux by train, boat, walking and bicycle. Sharing 95% of its borders with France, the seat of many international organizations, and a favorite respite and creative hangout for Freddy Mecury, Phil Collins, David Bowie, Audrey Hepburn, and many other celebrities and lesser known sophisticates, the Geneva region has it all.
We walked the cobblestone streets of the old towns and hit several farmer's markets where we stocked up on cheese, olives, wine and fresh baked goods for our afternoon appetizers or lunches on the train. Historically, Geneva was a strategic transport and trade route used by the Romans, and later controled by the Savoys who built a series of baronies and castellanies throughout this part of Switzerland including the Bernese Oberland and Valais regions, so there are impressive watchtowers and castles, especially the Chillon Castle in Montreux (but get there early in the high season summer months).
My favorite day in the area was walking through small villages and hiking amongst the trails in the terraced vineyards of Lavaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site originally excavated and built by hand by monks who settled here 1,000 years ago. Accompanied by local guide Matthew Richards, we arranged for our luggage to be transported from Lausanne to Montreux and set out to traverse the hilly terrain of cobblestone streets, steep stairways and meandering small roads accessed only by the vintners to work their fields. Walking from Epesses to Chexbres, there are interspersed vineyards for wine tasting and small gourmet restaurants along the way.
We had an appointment to visit Mr. Patrick Fonjallaz at his multi-generational estate in Epesses where we tasted three wines, then walked on for lunch at the Baron Tavernier in Chexbres, both sites chosen for their quality wine and dishes, as well as spectacular sunny views overlooking green vineyards, the deep blue Lake Geneva, and the snow-covered peaks of the French Alps. Matthew was really a great guide, the Swiss-born son of a British mountain climber who, like many who started tourism here, came to climb the peaks. Matthew is a dad now, and prefers leading trekking and cultural walking tours throughout Geneva and especially in Lavaux.